Edward Wilson Merrill (August 31, 1923 – August 6, 2020) was an American biomaterials scientist. He was one of the founders of bioengineering, and specifically the biomedical engineering field it developed from chemical engineering. Merrill was born to Edward Clifton Merrill (1881–1949), a chemical engineer and chief chemist of the United Drug Company (Rexall) and Gertrude Wilson (1895–1978).
Merrill grew up in Boston and attended the Roxbury Latin High school. He studied classics at Harvard. As Herman P. Meissner notes in his article “In appreciation”,
“Edward W. Merrill entered Harvard in 1941 to study the classics with emphasis on the contributions from the Greek authors. The faculty was delighted with his brilliant performance and recognized that they had a real scholar in the making. Merrill however felt that there were further aspects to life and reality than the humanities. He had always been interested in science, and so chose chemistry as a minor. At the time, Professor William H. McAdams of M.I.T. visited Harvard several days each week to present a rigorous and intensive course in chemical engineering basics. Ed Merrill enrolled, contrary to the advice of the more sophisticated undergrads, whose gentlest description of the subject was “formidable”.
He received a B.A. in Chemistry from Harvard University in 1944 and pursued doctoral studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the direction of Herman P. Meissner A leading chemical engineer of the 20th century, Meissner (doctorate 1938) had been educated under Hans Joachim Schumacher (1904-1990), at the University of Frankfurt. Schumacher himself was a doctoral student of the legendary Max Bodenstein (1871-1942). presents the rich history of the connections of the Merrill/Meissner/Schumacher academic tree to the early French and German chemists of the 18th and 19th century.
Merrill received his PhD in 1947 working on theories of adhesion of two polymers (thesis on “Certain Cohesive and Adhesive Characteristics of Thermoplastic High Polymers”. His work anticipated much later work of Pierre-Gilles de Gennes and others on polymer interdigitation to improve adhesion. Upon graduation he was employed by Dewey and Almy (later part of W.R. Grace) and joined MIT as an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering in 1950. He went through the ranks and was appointed Carbon P Dubbs Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering in 1973, a position he held until 1998. Since then, he has been Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering. He served also as Chief Scientist and Consultant in Biochemical Engineering to Harvard University Health Services, 1984–98. He was a Visiting Lecturer in Chemistry at Harvard University from 1952 to 1958, a consultant at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital of Boston from 1960 to 1972, a consultant of the Children’s Hospital in Boston from 1969 to 1972, and consultant of the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston from 1969 to 1985.