Year Inducted: 2023
Through an active professional life spanning more than 65 years, Thomas F. Talbot was a renaissance man meaningfully contributing to the engineering profession and improving the state of Alabama. His roles included service to the nation’s military, engineering education, industry, and the engineering profession in a remarkable career.
Perhaps his most impactful role was his nearly 23 years as a professor of engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he was a trusted mentor for many of the state’s engineers. However, his contributions cannot be summarized as only an educator as he was also a practicing engineer, evidenced by his licensing as a Professional Engineer in six states, and a leader in his profession through service in numerous professional organizations in Alabama and the United States.
A native of Birmingham, Talbot graduated from Auburn University in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. After graduation, he served in the United States Air Force at Arnold Engineering Development Center applying his expertise as a project engineer for mechanical areas of ram jet addition to the engine test facility. He also earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology.
After being discharged from active duty in 1956, Talbot continued to serve his country in the Air Force Reserves until 1985, retiring at the rank of Brigadier General.
In 1956, Talbot joined the Tennessee Coal and Iron Division of U.S. Steel with responsibilities including plant operation and maintenance at the firm’s Birmingham facility. During this time, he continued his love for learning and started teaching in the evenings at the University of Alabama’s extension center in Birmingham. Two years later, he started his academic career full time at the Georgia Institute of Technology, graduating with his doctorate in mechanical engineering in 1964. While at Georgia Tech, he was also an assistant professor, which led him to Vanderbilt University in 1965 for a brief tenure as associate professor of materials science and mechanical design.
He returned home to Birmingham in 1967 as an Associate Professor at UAB and as promoted to Professor a few years later. He also held positions as Director of Continuing Engineering Education and Chairman of the UAB Department of Mechanical Engineering. He authored or coauthored more than 40 publications and reports and gave more than 50 presentations at conferences. Talbot was named Professor Emeritus upon his retirement from UAB in 1990.
In parallel to his academic career, he served as a technical consultant for law firms, insurance companies, corporations, and government agencies on product liability and accident reconstruction for more than 50 years. Other businesses that he was instrumental in launching include American Alloy Products, in business from 1977-1997, and Vista Engineering Accident Reconstruction from 2010 to 2018.
Talbot served as a member of the Alabama Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors from 1985-2005, which included a time as chairman. He was also a member of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. He was a Life Member of ASM International, a Life Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and a member of the American Welding Society, the Society of Automotive Engineers, emeritus member of the National Council of Engineering Examiners, National Society of Professional Engineers, Alabama Society of Professional Engineers, and National Association of Professional Accident Reconstructionists.
He received many prestigious awards throughout his career including the Triodyne Safety Award, Birmingham Area Engineer of the Year, and Alabama Engineer of the Year. For his military service, he was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service medals.