Louis C. McCabe

1904 to 1978
Coal Combustion

Louis C. McCabe was born in Graphic, Arkansas. As an undergraduate at Northwestern University, he worked at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) as a field assistant in the Coal Division under G.H. Cady. From 1928 to 1930, he was employed by the Mississippi Coal Corporation. In 1930, he returned to the ISGS and was continuously employed there until April 15, 1941. While working with the Survey, he earned his B.S. (1931), M.S. (1933), and Ph.D. (1937) degrees from the University of Illinois. A geologist with a background in mining engineering, McCabe worked on the physical constitution of Illinois coals and their banded ingredients, heating values, and washability characteristics. He observed changes in the constitution of coals during the preparation process and described the practical significance of their physical constitution in coal preparation and in stoker combustion. He was a prominent member of a group of ISGS scientists and engineers in the 1930s and early 1940s who were concerned with coal combustion efficiency and the reduction of smoke released into the atmosphere through the burning of coal-a major environmental issue already recognized at that time. Although he left the ISGS in 1941 and officially resigned from the Survey in August 1945, his last publication in Illinois came out in 1951, describing early efforts to control air and stream pollution through the recovery of fine coal and sulfur-efforts that continue to be important today.

McCabe's expertise in coal was used to aid the war effort during World War II, first as a Deputy Power Procurement Officer. Later, he was attached to General Eisenhower's Headquarters Staff and placed in charge of coal production and distribution in Belgium, the Ruhr, and the Saar as those regions were liberated. He was awarded the Legion of Merit citation by Supreme Headquarters, European Theater of Operations in 1945 for his activities of October 1, 1944, through April 30, 1945. Many of his papers from this period are housed in the Truman Presidential Museum and Library.

After the war, McCabe joined the U.S. Bureau of Mines as Chief of the Coal Division. In 1947, he organized the Los Angeles County Air Pollution Control District, which he directed for two years. During that period, Time reported, "McCabe believes that eye irritation is a direct result of smog, and that when he solves the smog problem, Angelenos will be able to stop dabbing their eyes." He returned to the U.S. Bureau of Mines as Chief of the Office of Air and Stream Pollution and later became the scientist director for the Public Health Service. In 1955, he founded Resources Research, Inc. and remained in the private sector until his retirement in 1968. In recognition of his contributions, the Air and Waste Management Association presented McCabe with its Frank A. Chambers Excellence in Air Pollution Control Award in 1966.

McCabe had a wife, Catherine, two sons, and two daughters.

Honored by: 
Jack A. Simon
Citation Contributed by: 
Beverly Herzog