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William Begell

book William Begell
book Conspicuously Invisible: Wartime Memories of a Jewish Boy from Wilno
(by William Begell)

William (Bill) Begell, 82, died on Saturday, July 4th, 2009 at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York after a protracted illness. Until recently, Bill was President of Begell House Inc., the publishers of this journal and of many other journals, books and handbooks. He had a long history in publishing, starting as a co-founder of Scripta Technica in 1962 and continuing with the founding of Hemisphere Publishing Corporation in 1966 and Begell House Inc. in 1991. The medical and heat transfer and fluid flow areas have always been the main foci of Bill Begell's publishing activities, the latter reflecting his early career as Engineering Director of the Heat Transfer Research Facility at Columbia University. A leading figure in scientific publishing he was one of the founding members of the Society of Scholarly Publishing and has received many awards. He was a Fellow of ASME and received the 2005 ASME Heat Transfer Division Distinguished Service Award.

Bill Begell will be remembered not only for his many professional achievements but also for his remarkable character. He retained his love of life, his sense of humour and his empathetic nature despite a truly tragic history. He was born (as Wilhelm Beigel) in Vilnius (then Vilna) in Lithuania (then Poland) on May 18th, 1927. Vilnius was subjected successively to Russian, German and (again) Russian invasions and Bill was the only member of his family who survived. Bill's father (Ferdinand) was shot by the SS on September 4th, 1943. A week and a half later, on September 23rd, Bill, together with his mother and maternal grandmother were sent to the HKP (Heereskraffahrpark/Ost/562) labour camp in a move intended to save them from deportation and death. With the encouragement of his family, Bill escaped from the HKP on June 30th, 1944 but, tragically,his mother and grandmother were deported four days later and killed. After the "liberation" of Vilnius in July 1944, Bill made his way westwards and finished his schooling in post-Nazi Germany. He eventually immigrated to the USA in June 1947, where he trained and pursued a career as an engineer and, eventually, as a publisher. The tragic aspect of Bill's life was continued in the untimely deaths of his beloved children (Freddie as a result of an accident and Alysia of leukaemia) and of his first wife Ester, who died of heart failure soon after the passing of Alysia. Despite the personal devastation that these events brought to Bill, he somehow recovered and, until his final illness he appeared to have returned to something like (though never quite) his original self.

Perhaps the best memorial we can provide for Bill Begell is to do our utmost to ensure the continued success of the company he founded. I know that Bill was very proud of the work done by Yelena Shafeyeva and her team in modernising the Begell House portfolio, and in particular in making it available via the web. Bill Begell was a quite remarkable person who, despite the tragedies which beset him, gave so much happiness to those he met. He was loved by his many friends, whose lives he enriched and who will miss him dearly.

Geoff Hewitt
Editor-in-Chief, Begell House Engineering