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FLOWTRAN System Collection

Identifier: 2006-044

Scope and Content

The FLOWTRAN System Collection contains materials documenting the development of FLOWTRAN. The collection is arranged into the following six series:

  1. Manuals
  2. Instructional Materials
  3. Documentation Update Binders
  4. Robert H. Cavett Files
  5. Miscellaneous
  6. Addenda – ASPEN Project/Aspen Technology, Incorporated Files


  • 1962-2016
  • Majority of material found within Bulk 1966-1993


Language of Materials

Collection materials are mostly in English. A small amount of materials in Spanish are also in the collection.

Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes and the collection is open to the public.

Copyright Information

The Science History Institute holds copyright to the FLOWTRAN System Collection. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Background Note

FLOWTRAN was the world’s first commercially viable computer-based chemical process simulation system. It was developed by Monsanto Company, a prominent American chemical company. FLOWTRAN’s origins date back to 1959 when Monsanto took delivery of an IBM 704 mainframe computer. Looking for ways to use this new machine, Monsanto assembled an Applied Mathematics Group, which included chemical engineer Edward M. Rosen. The group soon recognized Monsanto’s need for a computerized chemical process simulation system and started work on one. In 1960, the Applied Mathematics Group developed an early chemical process simulation system called the Material Balance Program, but this was found to be of limited use to the company’s chemical engineers.

Seeking to improve upon the Material Balance Program, Monsanto hired chemical engineer Robert H. Cavett away from Pure Oil Company in 1964 and assigned him to the Applied Mathematics Group. Cavett brought with him a body of work on physical property and numerical analysis, which Monsanto subsequently purchased from Pure Oil.

Soon after Cavett’s arrival, the Applied Mathematics Group started work on a new computerized chemical process simulation system, which employed the FORTRAN programming language. Cavett successfully advocated for the use of a sequential modular (“building block”) architecture, which became the basis for the system. Cavett’s physical property and numerical analysis work at Pure Oil was also incorporated into the design. The end result of the Applied Mathematics Group’s work was a simulation system named FLOWTRAN (Flowsheet Translator), which was released internally at Monsanto in 1966. Within Monsanto, FLOWTRAN was an immediate success. It helped Monsanto’s chemical engineers better understand chemical processes. FLOWTRAN also helped the firm reduce its engineering and operating costs. Between 1966 and 1993, most of the major chemical processes developed at Monsanto were studied with FLOWTRAN.

Seeing a market for its new chemical process simulation system, Monsanto started licensing a customer version of FLOWTRAN in 1968. It found wide acceptance within the chemical industry, with over seventy companies adopting it by the mid-1970s. FLOWTRAN was also made available to universities and government agencies. Between 1973 and 1994, Monsanto participated in the CACHE (Computer Aids for Chemical Engineering Education)/FLOWTRAN Project, which made FLOWTRAN available to numerous universities in the United States and abroad. Between 1977 and 1981, Monsanto participated in the ASPEN Project. A joint venture with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Energy Research and Development Corporation, this project involved FLOWTRAN becoming the basis of ASPEN (Advanced System for Process Engineering), a computerized chemical process simulator used to evaluate synthetic fuel processes. The ASPEN Project also led to the founding of Aspen Technology, Incorporated in 1981, which became a well known provider of software and services to the chemical industry.

Monsanto continuously updated FLOWTRAN over the course of the simulation system’s existence, but it eventually became obsolete as computer applications became more advanced and complex. Monsanto ceased licensing FLOWTRAN to customers during the late 1980s and it was largely out of use by the early 1990s. In 1993, FLOWTRAN was supplanted by HYSIM, a new Monsanto computerized chemical process simulator.


FLOWTRAN System Collection, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


5.6 Linear Feet (4 record boxes.)


Manuals, instructional materials, business records, and miscellaneous printed materials documenting FLOWTRAN, a computer-based chemical process simulation system developed by Monsanto Company. The files in this collection were created by Monsanto Company and collected by Edward M. Rosen, a chemical engineer and a member of Monsanto’s Applied Mathematics Group, which developed FLOWTRAN.

Acquisition Information

The FLOWTRAN System Collection was donated to the Science History Institute (formerly the Chemical Heritage Foundation) by Edward M. Rosen in two accessions: April 2006 and June 2016.

Related Materials

The Monsanto Company Records are preserved at the Washington University Archives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Processing Information

The FLOWTRAN System Collection was processed by Andrew Mangravite in 2017. The addenda to the FLOWTRAN System Collection (Series VI) was processed by Kenton G. Jaehnig in February 2018.


FLOWTRAN System Collection
Finding aid created by Andy Mangravite and encoded into EAD by Kenton G. Jaehnig.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Science History Institute Archives Repository

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia PA 19106 United States
215.873.5265 (Fax)