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Anthony N. Stranges and Richard C. Jones

Baekeland, Leo Hendrik (14 November 1863–23 February 1944), chemist and inventor, was born in St. Martens-Latem, near Ghent, Belgium, the son of Karel Baekeland, a cobbler, and Rosalia Merchie, a housemaid. A government scholarship enabled Baekeland to enter the University of Ghent, where he studied chemistry in the School of Exact Sciences. He received a B.S. in 1882 and a D.Sc. in organic chemistry in 1884, passing the examination with highest honors. The following year he became an assistant to Theodore Swarts, a professor of chemistry at Ghent. In 1887 Baekeland won a traveling scholarship in an academic competition sponsored by the Universities of Ghent, Liege, Brussels, and Louvain. He postponed travel and instead continued as an assistant professor and then as associate professor from 1888 to 1889 at Ghent and at the nearby Higher Normal School at Bruges from 1885 to 1887. In 1889 he married Swarts’s daughter, Céline, an artist; they had two children. The couple used Baekeland’s scholarship for travel to France, Britain, and the United States that year....

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Dreyfus, Camille Edouard (11 November 1878–27 September 1956), industrial chemist and entrepreneur, was born in Basel, Switzerland, the son of Abraham Dreyfus, a banker, and Henrietta Wahl. Camille and his younger brother, Henri (later Americanized to Henry), both received their education at the University of Basel, being awarded their Ph.D.s in chemistry in 1902 and 1905, respectively. Camille also pursued postgraduate study at the Sorbonne in Paris until 1906. After working several years in Basel to gain industrial experience, Camille and his brother established a chemical laboratory in their home town. Seeking a product that the public would readily buy, they developed a synthetic indigo. Although they made some money in this venture, it quickly became clear that synthetic indigo did not have a sufficient market. Consequently the Dreyfus brothers focused their attention on celluloid, which at that time was produced only in a flammable form. They recognized that a large potential market existed for nonflammable celluloid, if it could be developed. They focused on cellulose acetate and were shortly producing one to two tons per day. Half of their output went to the motion picture industry for film, with the other half going into the production of toilet articles....

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Ellis, Carleton (20 September 1876–13 January 1941), chemist and inventor, was born in Keene, New Hampshire, the son of Marcus Ellis, a merchant, and Catherine Goodnow. Ellis received a camera from his father for his eleventh birthday and became an amateur photographer. Obsessed with the chemistry of photography, he pursued experiments in a home laboratory to the dismay of his parents, who considered this a wasteful extravagance. In 1896 he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receiving a B.S. in chemistry in 1900 and serving as an instructor in chemistry until 1902. In 1901 he married Birdella May Wood of Dayton, Ohio; they had four children....

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Gillette, King Camp (05 January 1855–09 July 1932), inventor and social theorist, was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, the son of George Wolcott Gillette, a hardware wholesaler, and Fanny Lemira Camp, later the author of the bestselling White House Cookbook. Shortly before the Civil War the family moved to Chicago, where he graduated from high school. Gillette clerked in a hardware store and then became a traveling salesman. Like his father and two older brothers, he delighted in inventive tinkering, and in 1879 he was granted his first patent, for a water-faucet component. In 1890 he married Atlanta Ella Gaines; they had one son....

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Hill, Henry Aaron (30 May 1915–17 March 1979), chemist and businessman, was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, the son of William Anthony Hill II, the head waiter at a local hotel, and Kate Anna Evans. Hill attended public elementary and secondary schools in St. Joseph and graduated from Bartlett High School in 1931. After completing his first year of college at Lewis Institute in Chicago (later a part of the Illinois Institute of Technology), he attended Johnson C. Smith University, an all-black institution in Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated in 1936 with a B.S. cum laude in mathematics and chemistry....

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Hyatt, John Wesley (28 November 1837–10 May 1920), inventor, was born in Starkey, New York, the son of John Wesley Hyatt, a blacksmith, and Anne Gleason. His education in ordinary schools was supplemented by one year at the Eddystone Seminary. At the age of sixteen Hyatt moved to Illinois, where he took up his first trade as a printer. It was perhaps in this work that he could begin to display some of his considerable abilities as a mechanic....

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Lloyd, John Uri (19 April 1849–09 April 1936), pharmacist and author, was born in West Bloomfield, New York, the son of Nelson Marvin Lloyd, an engineer, and Sophia Webster, a schoolteacher. The eldest of three sons who would become leading manufacturers of botanical medicines, Lloyd left the Genesee Valley with his parents when he was only four to settle in northern Kentucky. In this rustic environment he evinced an early interest in the flora around him and developed the habit of surreptitiously borrowing his mother’s kitchenware to fashion crude but instructive experiments with natural products....

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Mallinckrodt, Edward, Jr. (17 November 1878–19 January 1967), chemical manufacturer and chemist, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Edward Mallinckrodt, a chemical manufacturer, and Jennie Anderson. Mallinckrodt’s father, a leader of the large St. Louis German community, was owner of Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, a firm founded in 1867, and the family was well-to-do by midwestern standards. Mallinckrodt graduated from Smith Academy, a local preparatory school. He pursued a B.A. in chemistry at Harvard University, graduating cum laude in 1900. He remained at Harvard, studying with the renowned chemist ...

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Morehead, John Motley (03 November 1870–07 January 1965), electrochemist, diplomat, and philanthropist, was born in Spray (now Eden), North Carolina, the son of James Turner Morehead, a prominent textile manufacturer, and Mary Elizabeth Connally. After preparatory and military school training, he entered the University of North Carolina and graduated with election to Phi Beta Kappa in 1891....

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Nestle, Charles (02 May 1872–22 January 1951), creator of permanent waving devices for human hair, was born Karl Ludwig Nessler, in Todtnau, Bavaria, the son of Bartholomew Nessler, a shoemaker, and Rosina Laitner. For some unknown reason, the vagaries of hair fascinated Nestle as a young man. He invested long hours in the study of its properties. This youthful interest led Nestle to work briefly in a neighboring village as a barber’s apprentice. Not long after, he traversed the border into nearby Switzerland to work successive jobs in small electric appliance and watch parts firms. Although he developed solid knowledge of simple mechanics and electric motors and equipment, Nestle soon tired of factory work and followed his early interest in hair to salons, where he learned to cut it and wave it, while closely studying its properties....

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Plunkett, Roy Joseph (26 June 1910–12 May 1994), chemist and research director, was born in New Carlisle, Ohio, the son of Joseph Henry Plunkett and Elizabeth May Garst, farmers. His parents belonged to the Church of the Brethren, whose members were known as Dunkards, or Dunkers, and he was raised strictly in the faith. He graduated from Newton High School in Pleasant Hill, Ohio, in 1927 and entered Manchester College, a Dunkard school, in North Manchester, Indiana, from which he received his A.B. in chemistry in 1932. He roomed and was friends with future (1974) Nobel chemistry laureate ...

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Squibb, Edward Robinson (04 July 1819–25 October 1900), physician, chemist, and manufacturing pharmacist, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of James Robinson Squibb (occupation unknown) and Catherine Bonsall. After Squibb’s mother died in 1831, the family moved to Philadelphia. In 1837 Edward became a pharmacist’s apprentice. Five years later he entered Jefferson Medical College; he received his M.D. degree in 1845....

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Tupper, Earl Silas (28 July 1907–03 October 1983), inventor, was born in Berlin, New Hampshire, the son of farmers. Soon after his birth the family moved to a farm in Massachusetts where young Tupper enjoyed buying and selling vegetables. After graduating from high school in 1926, Tupper turned his hobby into a small mail-order business for household items such as combs and toothbrushes. During this time the self-described “ham inventor and Yankee trader” found another area in which to tinker—chemical engineering. Tupper’s self-taught skills led him to Du Pont, where he worked as an engineer during the 1930s. While at Du Pont, Tupper became fascinated by plastic, an interest that continued through the remainder of his life....

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Warren, Cyrus Moors (15 January 1824–13 August 1891), chemist and manufacturer, was born in West Dedham, Massachusetts, the son of Jesse Warren, a blacksmith and inventor of iron implements, and Betsey Jackson. Though a skilled blacksmith, Warren’s father proved to be a poor businessman. The family consequently moved many times, first from Massachusetts to Vermont and then twice within Vermont, making it difficult for young Cyrus to receive the type of education he wished. Cyrus and his next older brother, Samuel, resolved that the only way to get the education they desired was to start a business and thus obtain financial independence. In 1846 Samuel moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to establish a business making tar paper, which was just being introduced as a roofing material. Cyrus joined Samuel in 1847, and the business proved to be such a success that Samuel was soon free to study the law. The success of the business was due in part to the brothers’ use of coal tar instead of the usual pine pitch for coating the paper....

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Washburn, Frank Sherman (08 December 1860–09 October 1922), engineer and industrial entrepreneur, was born in Centralia, Illinois, the son of Elmer Washburn, a politician and banker, and Elizabeth Knight. Washburn received a degree in civil engineering from Cornell University in 1883, after which he went to work for the Chicago and North Western Railroad. During 1884 he did graduate study at Cornell in economics, history, and political science and returned to the Chicago and North Western in 1885 as a bridge engineer and later a division engineer....

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Weightman, William (30 September 1813–25 August 1904), manufacturer, chemist, and financier, was born in Waltham, Lincolnshire, England, the son of William Weightman and Anne Farr. Weightman emigrated to the United States when he was sixteen at the suggestion of his uncle John Farr, a chemist and founder of the firm Farr & Kunzi, established in 1818. Farr & Kunzi was the first company to experiment with conchona alkaloids in the United States, at the same time that Pellatier and Gaventou were announcing their discovery of that substance in 1820. Weightman entered the firm in 1820, and when Kunzi retired in 1836, Weightman and another associate, Thomas Powers, formed Farr, Powers & Weightman. In 1841 Weightman married Louise Stelwagon; they had three children....

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Wyeth, N. C. (24 October 1911–04 July 1990), engineer and inventor, was born Newell Convers Wyeth in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, the son of Newell Convers “N. C.” Wyeth, an acclaimed illustrator, and Carolyn Brenneman Bockius. Wyeth’s childhood in Chadds Ford, with extended summer vacations in Port Clyde, Maine, was filled with creativity and exploration. While three of his four siblings were drawn immediately to studying art with their father, Wyeth showed an early interest and ability in engineering. When he was only three or four, his parents observed him rolling his buggy back and forth across the veranda, explaining his greasy hands after what was supposed to be a nap. This prompted his father to change Wyeth’s name from Newell to Nathaniel, after his uncle, an engineer. Such an early disposition for physical manipulation occupied much of his youth. He frequently would dismantle clocks and use their parts to power model speedboats, and he spent a great deal of time fashioning scale models of furniture. One of the most influential lessons taught by Wyeth’s father was the benefits of work done well. During Wyeth’s first attempt at building a scale wooden ladder-backed chair, his father, while supporting his attempt, pointed out in what ways the chair could have been better. This quiet lesson and others like it were not lost on Wyeth, as he knew that the well-planned, carefully completed route to finishing any project would provide the best products. This patience, combined with skill, led him to become a talented and prolific inventor....