Trouble viewing? Open in web browser.

Journalist Resources Stanford News Stanford Experts Contact Us
Stanford University homepage

News Service

February 20, 2004

William E. Brigham, petroleum engineer, dies at 74

William E. ("Bill") Brigham, a professor emeritus of petroleum engineering at Stanford University, died of liver cancer at his campus home Feb. 15. He was 74. A memorial service will be held Thursday, March 11, at 2 p.m. in the Stanford Memorial Church.

Brigham's research into the physical mechanisms of recovery from oil reservoirs was highly regarded by his colleagues worldwide, said Roland N. Horne, chair of the Department of Petroleum Engineering. "Bill was a fine scientist, but he was a very down to earth and generous man," Horne recalled. "His family came first. He and his wife loved to travel and enjoyed duplicate bridge."

Chemical engineer

Brigham was born on April 1, 1929, in Murphysboro, Ill. He received a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from Iowa State University in 1950. A year later, he was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps and stationed on Treasure Island in San Francisco. It was during this time that he met his future wife, Carol Cobb. They were married in 1954.

After completing his service in the Marine Corps, Brigham pursued graduate studies in chemical engineering from at the University of Oklahoma from 1956 to 1962, while working simultaneously for the Continental Oil Company in Ponca City, Okla. He earned a doctoral degree in 1962 and remained with Conoco until 1968.

In 1971, he accepted an offer from Stanford to join the faculty in the Department of Petroleum Engineering, serving as associate chair from 1979 to 1990. In his more than 30 years at Stanford, Brigham taught many formal courses to undergraduates and graduate students. He also supervised graduate research, serving as the principal adviser of 25 doctoral, 3 Engineer and 37 master of science candidates. In reflecting on his graduate students, Brigham once said, "They make a mediocre professor look like a Nobel Prize winner."

On Feb. 9, the Department of Petroleum Engineering inaugurated the Brigham Laboratory in the Green Earth Science building to honor his many technical and academic contributions to the university.


Awards and honors

Brigham was recipient of the John Franklin Carll Award and the Improved Oil Recovery Pioneer Award from the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE); and the Homer H. Lowry Award for Excellence in Fossil Energy Research from the U.S. Department of Energy. The author of more than 250 papers and technical reports, he was an honorary member of SPE and the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers.

Brigham is survived by his wife of 49 years Carol; daughters Nancy Blattel, Laurie Jester and Sarah Fletcher; sons Bill and David Brigham; 10 grandchildren and three step-grandchildren.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests that donations be sent to The William E. Brigham Fund, Department of Petroleum Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif. 94305; or to the American Cancer Society.

Editor Note:

Photos of William E. Brigham are available online at (slug: "Brigham_Obit").



Mark Shwartz, News Service (650) 723-9296;


Roland Horne, Department of Petroleum Engineering (650) 723-9595;

Related Information


Update your subscription

  • Email:
  • Phone: (650) 723-2558

More Stanford coverage

Facebook Twitter iTunes YouTube Futurity RSS

Journalist Resources Stanford News Stanford Experts Contact Us

© Stanford University. Stanford, California 94305. (650) 723-2300.