EPP Faculty :: Lester B. Lave

Lester B. Lave

 Carnegie Mellon University - (Deceased May 9, 2011)

University Professor; The Harry B. and James H. Higgins Professor of Economics and Finance; Professor, Engineering and Public Policy and Heinz College; Director, Green Design Initiative

Risk analysis of management, including air pollution, carcinogenicity of chemicals, safety of dams, and highway safety; and product and process design for the environment, including life-cycle analysis.

B.A. (Economics) 1960, Reed College
Ph.D. (Economics) 1963, Harvard University.

Carnegie Mellon, 1963 -2011.

Professor Lave’s work was broad in its focus.  With his student Eugene Seskin he published seminal work on the impacts of air pollution on human health. The results established the link between fine particles and mortality and eventually led to particulate air quality standards and emission regulations that will continue to save lives far into the future.  Lave was recognized for his air pollution and public health work with election to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in 1982.

With colleagues Granger Morgan, Alex Farrell, and Jay Apt, Lester founded Carnegie Mellon’s Electricity Industry Center in 2001, which today is the largest interdisciplinary group working on all aspects of the electric power industry. During the 1980s, Lave contributed his expertise in the areas of risk analysis arena, automobile safety, dam design, diabetic truck drivers, fuel additive risks, and global climate change were but a few of the topics addressed in research by Lave and his students.

With colleagues Hendrickson and McMichael wondered at the reception this technology constraint argument would receive, Lave founded the Green Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon in 1992. This interdisciplinary center provided new approaches to pollution prevention and waste minimization. With numerous students, the group developed an inputoutput approach to make environmental life cycle assessment both consistent and rapid. They also had their share of controversy, such as their study of lead emissions from the life-cycle of lead-acid battery powered vehicles, which appeared in the The New York Times and eventually the journal Science, entitled ‘Environmental Implications of Electric Cars.’ This article disparaged the use of lead-acid batteries and production of primary and secondary lead due to what they said are harmful emissions.

He served on, and chaired, numerous study committees of the National Academies (NRC). Most recently he chaired the Academy report Real Prospects for Energy Efficiency in the United States that demonstrated large opportunities for saving energy by improving buildings. At the time of his death he was chairing an Academy committee on whether and how to make motor fuels from biomass.

Lave was a dedicated educator. He supervised roughly 40 Ph.D. and postdoctoral students, many of whom have gone on to make important contributions of their own in environmental science and technology. Many of the MBA students he taught have played important roles in the greening of U.S. and international industry. CEOs of several of the nation’s best-managed companies are his former students.

Lave was prescient in picking important problems and applying rigorous analysis. He was also exemplary in ignoring disciplinary boundaries. As a result, his legacy in a variety of important topics is enormous.