Jerry Meldon, chemical engineering professor and narco-politics author, dies at 69

(Courtesy Kelvin Ma/Tufts University) 09/09/2011- Medford, Mass. - Tufts School of Engineering Chemical Engineering associate professor Jerry Meldon photographed on Sept. 9, 2011.

Jerry H. Meldon, associate professor of chemical engineering at Tufts University, died at age 69 on July 18 after drowning while swimming in a North Carolina lake, according to a July 20 Tufts Now article

Over his nearly four-decade tenure in Tufts’ Department of Chemical EngineeringMeldon produced and collaborated on highly-cited research into gas transport phenomena, according to Jianmin Qu, dean of the School of Engineering. He also became one of the School of Engineering’s standout educators, receiving the Henry and Madeline Fischer Award for Engineering Teacher of the Year in 2010.

Colleagues remembered Meldon for being a warm and dedicated professor who cared deeply for his students’ success.

“Professor Meldon will be remembered by students and colleagues as a brilliant instructor who taught and advised students, both graduate and undergraduate, with great empathy,” Qu said.

Anh Phong Tran (E ’13) remembered Meldon, his former advisor, as a compassionate and influential mentor. When Tran was applying for graduate school, Meldon asked him for assistance with a mathematics project.

“Despite the difference in stature, knowledge, and the occasional mistakes, he always made sure that my contributions [to the project] felt important,” Tran told the Daily in an email. “I continue to pursue my interests in computational work that Professor Meldon helped spark into life.”

Jerry Meldon began his studies at Cooper Union, graduating in 1968 with a degree in chemical engineering. He then received a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973, according to retired MIT Professor Kenneth Smith.

Smith taught Meldon, then his student at MIT, and assisted with his doctoral thesis on transport of chemical species across a membrane. He remembered Meldon for his ability to master many aspects of the scientific process.

“Most of us are good at theory or good at experiments, but not so good at doing both,” Smith said. “But Jerry was.”

Meldon completed his postdoctoral studies in the physiology department at Odense University in Denmark, Smith said. 

Meldon joined Tufts’ chemical engineering faculty in 1978. During his tenure, he completed valuable research on topics from across the chemical engineering discipline, according to Qu.

“Professor Meldon’s research, which focused on mass transfer with chemical reaction, mathematical modeling, carbon dioxide capture and separation processes, had a strong impact on the field through his journal publications, books and chapters, and patents,” Qu said.

Meldon also served on the international advisory board of the journal Indian Chemical Engineer and on the editorial board of Current Opinions in Chemical Engineering. Additionally, he recently acted as a software development consultant for the petroleum and chemical industries, according to Qu.

Meldon’s public work, however, was not limited to the study and instruction of chemical engineering. Throughout his adult life he nursed a fascination for foreign policy — particularly narcotics and espionage-related events — as a writer for the Boston Globe and independent investigative journalism site Consortiumnews, according to an article posted in his memory on July 29. 

He wrote frequently about the ugly trade-offs that the U.S. government and the West in general made during [the Cold War],” the article read.

Over 16 years of writing as an on-again, off-again contributor to Consortiumnews, Meldon explored the sometimes ugly consequences of American foreign policy. His first article, published in 1997, recounts a covert attempt by the CIA to smuggle cocaine into the United StatesMost recently, an article published in June 2013 evidences how Wall Street insiders may have pulled the strings to allow certain Nazi war criminals to escape persecution.

Meldon also translated the 1980 edition of “The Great Heroin Coup: Drugs, Intelligence and International Fascism” by Danish author Henrik Krüger. The book maps out the shady global interplay of intelligence agencies, the drug underworld and fascist terrorists, according to an Amazon synopsis.

“In 1978 Jerry was doing research at the University in Odense, [Denmark], and contacted me to discuss [The Great Heroin Coup],” Krüger told the Daily in an email. “He was very interested in the subject [of] drug-politics, and was interested in translating the book.”

Meldon’s work on “The Great Heroin Coup” continued with the 2016 release of an updated version of the book, which he translated and also co-authored, according to Krüger.

Jerry was a co-writer on the new material,” he said. “So in fact, it was his book as much as mine.”

Meldon is survived by his wife, Robin, and their three children, James, Seth and Perri, according to the Tufts Now article.