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This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Science History Institute Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
FLOWTRAN was the world's first commercially viable computer-based chemical process simulation system. It was developed by Monsanto Company, a prominent American chemical company. FLOWTRAN's origins date back to 1959 when Monsanto took delivery of an IBM 704 mainframe computer. Looking for ways to use this new machine, Monsanto assembled an Applied Mathematics Group, which included chemical engineer Edward M. Rosen. The group soon recognized Monsanto's need for a computerized chemical process simulation system and started work on one. In 1960, the Applied Mathematics Group developed an early chemical process simulation system called the Material Balance Program, but this was found to be of limited use to the company's chemical engineers.
Seeking to improve upon the Material Balance Program, Monsanto hired chemical engineer Robert H. Cavett away from Pure Oil Company in 1964 and assigned him to the Applied Mathematics Group. Cavett brought with him a body of work on physical property and numerical analysis, which Monsanto subsequently purchased from Pure Oil.
Soon after Cavett's arrival, the Applied Mathematics Group started work on a new computerized chemical process simulation system, which employed the FORTRAN programming language. Cavett successfully advocated for the use of a sequential modular ("building block") architecture, which became the basis for the system. Cavett's physical property and numerical analysis work at Pure Oil was also incorporated into the design. The end result of the Applied Mathematics Group's work was a simulation system named FLOWTRAN (Flowsheet Translator), which was released internally at Monsanto in 1966. Within Monsanto, FLOWTRAN was an immediate success. It helped Monsanto's chemical engineers better understand chemical processes. FLOWTRAN also helped the firm reduce its engineering and operating costs. Between 1966 and 1993, most of the major chemical processes developed at Monsanto were studied with FLOWTRAN.
Seeing a market for its new chemical process simulation system, Monsanto started licensing a customer version of FLOWTRAN in 1968. It found wide acceptance within the chemical industry, with over seventy companies adopting it by the mid-1970s. FLOWTRAN was also made available to universities and government agencies. Between 1973 and 1994, Monsanto participated in the CACHE (Computer Aids for Chemical Engineering Education)/FLOWTRAN Project, which made FLOWTRAN available to numerous universities in the United States and abroad. Between 1977 and 1981, Monsanto participated in the ASPEN Project. A joint venture with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Energy Research and Development Corporation, this project involved FLOWTRAN becoming the basis of ASPEN (Advanced System for Process Engineering), a computerized chemical process simulator used to evaluate synthetic fuel processes. The ASPEN Project also led to the founding of Aspen Technology, Incorporated in 1981, which became a well known provider of software and services to the chemical industry.
Monsanto continuously updated FLOWTRAN over the course of the simulation system's existence, but it eventually became obsolete as computer applications became more advanced and complex. Monsanto ceased licensing FLOWTRAN to customers during the late 1980s and it was largely out of use by the early 1990s. In 1993, FLOWTRAN was supplanted by HYSIM, a new Monsanto computerized chemical process simulator.
FLOWTRAN System Collection, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The FLOWTRAN System Collection contains materials documenting the development of FLOWTRAN. The collection is arranged into the following six series:
- Instructional Materials
- Documentation Update Binders
- Robert H. Cavett Files
- Addenda – ASPEN Project/Aspen Technology, Incorporated Files
The FLOWTRAN System Collection was donated to the Science History Institute (formerly the Chemical Heritage Foundation) by Edward M. Rosen in two accessions: April 2006 and June 2016.
The FLOWTRAN System Collection was processed by Andrew Mangravite in 2017. The addenda to the FLOWTRAN System Collection (Series VI) was processed by Kenton G. Jaehnig in February 2018.
- Aspen Technology, Incorporated
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Chemical Engineering
- Science History Institute Archives
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid created by Andy Mangravite and encoded into EAD by Kenton G. Jaehnig.
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes and the collection is open to the public.
- Use Restrictions
The Science History Institute holds copyright to the FLOWTRAN System Collection. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.
Arranged alphabetically by subject, this series contains manuals for the use of FLOWTRAN. A large majority of the materials in this series were printed by Monsanto. A single manual printed by the University of Concepción in Chile is also preserved.
A majority of the manuals concern specific components of FLOWTRAN, including, but not limited to, the cost block, physical property (PROPTY), and vapor-liquid equilibrium (VLE) functions. Manuals concerning more general matters pertaining to FLOWTRAN, including operation and programming, are found here as well.
Arranged alphabetically by subject, this series contains instructional materials, which were used in workshops to train Monsanto and non-Monsanto personnel in the use of FLOWTRAN. A large majority of the materials in this series were created by Monsanto. A single publication printed by the CACHE/FLOWTRAN Project is also preserved here.
Five of the files in this series contain instructional binders, the contents of which consist of a variety of photocopied materials, including handouts, computer printouts, illustrations, graphs, abstracts, articles, papers, and handwritten notes. Four files containing stand alone instructional publications are found in this series as well.
Arranged numerically by volume number, this series contains Monsanto's FLOWTRAN documentation update binders. The files in this series contain original examples of updated FLOWTRAN technical documents printed by Monsanto and distributed to its staff and outside customers. The materials in this series document the technical evolution of FLOWTRAN between 1966 and 1993. It also documents Monsanto's efforts to keep its FLOWTRAN technical documents up to date. The contents of the Documentation Update Binders consist of manuals, manual pages, user abstracts, and bulletins.
Robert H. Cavett was a Monsanto chemical engineer who played a key role in the development of FLOWTRAN. His most notable contribution to FLOWTRAN was advocating for the use of sequential modular ("building block") architecture, which became the basis of the simulator system's design.
In January 1976, Cavett suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage, which rendered him unable to work and classified as "permanently disabled". Between 1980 and 1985, Monsanto employed Cavett as a "test case" in a new plan to rehabilitate injured employees and return them to the workforce, which was overseen by Edward M. Rosen. Cavett recovered and eventually earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Arizona State University in 1993. He was also the first recipient of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers' CAST Division Award (1987).
Arranged alphabetically by subject, this series contains Monsanto's files regarding Robert H. Cavett. Cavett's recovery program with Monsanto and his successful pursuit of a Ph.D. are documented in this series. Materials regarding his work on FLOWTRAN during the 1970s are also found here.
The contents of the Robert H. Cavett Files consist mainly of correspondence and reports. A handful of publications written by Cavett, photocopied papers, photocopied articles, and CAST Division Award applications are preserved in these files as well.
Arranged alphabetically by subject, this series contains Monsanto files regarding FLOWTRAN that do not readily fit elsewhere in the collection. The files in this series concern a small number of subjects, including, but not limited to, advertising, marketing, and Monsanto's decision to close down FLOWTRAN.
The contents of the Miscellaneous files consist of a variety of materials. Correspondence, articles, papers, and reports are the most common materials in this series. Smaller, but noticeable amounts of notes, legal documents, and user abstracts are also preserved in this series. Small amounts of press releases, bulletins, and computer punch cards are found here as well.
Arranged alphabetically by subject, this series is an addenda to the FLOWTRAN System Collection that was donated to the Science History Institute (formerly the Chemical History Foundation) in June 2016. It documents Monsanto's participation in the ASPEN Project, a joint venture with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Energy Research and Development Corporation. It also documents the early activities of Aspen Technology, Incorporated, a provider of software and services to the chemical industry that was spun off the ASPEN Project in 1981.
The contents of this series consist of a variety of materials. Publications make up the largest portion of this series. A noticeable amount of correspondence, legal documents, reports, and papers are also found in this series. Newsletters, a, participant list, a bibliography, a staff list, a web page printout, and a photocopied article are preserved here as well.