Chester C. Kisiel was born in Harrison Township, Pennsylvania, in 1929, the eldest of six children. He came from an immigrant background and spent his youth surrounded by the rivers, hills, and steel mills of Pittsburgh.
He worked from the age of fourteen to help support himself and his family and to help pay his educational expenses. That strong steel town work ethic was an intrinsic part of Chester’s character and never left him until his untimely death on a handball court in Tucson in 1973.
There was a theme to Chester Kisiel’s professional work: His continuing effort to bring mathematical and modern engineering methods to bear on problems in hydrology. And he was not content to deal with existing problem statements. In many cases, he refined and reformulated the problem itself, or he identified problems before many of his colleagues were aware of their existence.
His research activities focused on the application of systems theory, operations research, decision theory, mathematical statistics and theory of stochastic processes to problems in hydrology and water resources. This entailed the study of worth of data, choosing models, uncertainties, indeterminacies, error propagation, space- time sampling of environmental processes, time series analysis, and modeling of the Tucson aquifer. His power of synthesis was formidable and his scientific curiosity was never more evident in the innumerable questions he asked and the problems he sought to unravel.
Chester Kisiel had the gift of self-examination, which was another way of saying that he had the gift of honesty. He tried to be honest with himself and honest with others. He could forgive many things but not something that, in his view, was a dishonest piece of work.
He brought to bear prodigious gifts in pursuing his goals. He had the gift of hard work and uncompromising standards. He was a hard task master, but he never demanded more of others than he was willing and able to do himself. He had the gift of sound instinct, both with regard to technical matters and in the assessment of the strengths of his colleagues. He had the gift of stimulating and working with others across many disciplines.
With the Chester C. Memorial Lecture series, we honor his contributions to our department, its faculty and students, and to the field of hydrology and water resources, and the science that it has become.
Reflections on Hydrology: Science and Practice
edited by Nathan Buras, includes biographies and a thematic discussion of, as well as the papers presented by, the first 11 Kisiel Memorial Lecturers. The book may be purchased through various retail outlets (e.g. Amazon, Barnes and Noble): ISBN: 0875908748. ISBN-13: 9780875908748. For the published Google edition, go here