Today in NC State History: First PhD in nuclear engineering

May 10, 2013
By Bill Krueger

blog_series63Hervasio Guimaraes de Carvalho made news when he decided to leave Brazil to study at NC State. He made even bigger news a couple of years later when he earned his PhD from the university.

The Technician took note of de Carvalho registering for graduate studies in nuclear engineering in 1952. The student newspaper described de Carvalho as “the key man in Brazil’s peacetime development of atomic engineering.” The paper said that de Carvalho planned to return to Brazil after earning his PhD to operate a pilot atomic reactor.

De Carvalho was quite accomplished before arriving at NC State. He had already earned two doctorates and worked as a professor at the University of Recife and the University of Brazil. He had been elected a Fellow in the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and, immediately before coming to NC State, had served as assistant counsel to the scientific director for the newly created National Research Council of Brazil.

Although de Carvalho earned his PhD in nuclear engineering from NC State, he spent much of his time working as a research associate in the Institute for Nuclear Studies at the University of Chicago. In his thesis, (“Total Cross Sections of 208-Mev and 315-Mev Protons for Light Elements”) de Carvalho expressed his appreciation for professors at the University of Chicago before thanking NC State professors Clifford Beck, Raymond Murray and A.C. Menius for their assistance.

But on this day in 1954, de Carvalho became the first student in the world — yes, the world — to complete the requirements for a doctorate in nuclear engineering, according to an account in The News & Observer. He was also the first person to ever earn a PhD from NC State’s physics department. A photo showed him standing atop NC State’s nuclear reactor with Beck, head of the Physics Department.

The newspaper account said that de Carvalho flew to Chicago after completing his work so that he could join his family, but that he planned to return to NC State in June to receive his degree.

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One Response to “Today in NC State History: First PhD in nuclear engineering”

  1. Antonio Gilberto Carvalho says:

    Dear NC State Alumni,
    In 2016 Hervásio would be 100yr he passed away on Nov 17, 1999. I am his son and had the privilege to lived in near your fine university from 3 to 5 years old.
    Just felt you would like to know.
    Regards
    Gilberto

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