« PředchozíPokračovat »
therein, young Baekeland had little sympa- nical School he was able to work in the thy. The usual high school studies lulled chemical laboratory and to continue, unhim into a state of stupor. In one subject, handicapped by lack of means, his study geography, he was able to arouse himself of the processes of dry-plate manufacture. to some interest: only so far, however, as It was in this study that he laid the it pertained to a nebulous ambition of foundations for his reputation, later, as a some day becoming a sailor.
consulting expert on the subject. When the bell of the Atheneum tolled Thereafter he devoted sufficient attenthe closing hour for school each day, how- tion to his studies at the Atheneum to ever, Baekeland came out of his trance. enable him to graduate-in 1880. SimultaHe had one hobby which fascinated him neously he graduated from the Technical and to which he devoted all his spare mo- School, far and away leading his class. ments: photography. The school day He now passed an examination which enended, he would sling his camera over his titled him to a scholarship at the Governshoulder and go hunting his pictorial ment's expense—he was a poor boy—at game. At evening after supper, when the Ghent University, which he entered in the paternal Baekeland noticed the absence fall of the same year. At twenty-one of his precocious son from the little family years of age and the youngest in his class, circle, he found comfort in the reflection he graduated from Ghent with highest that Leo was studiously preparing his honors and with the degree of Doctor of lessons for the following day. The truth Science. Three years later he was prowas that young Baekeland, closeted in a fessor of chemistry and physics at the darkened room, was diligently developing Government Normal School at Bruges. the results of his afternoon's expedition. At this time he won in a competition that At that time, a new industry was spring
carried with it a traveling scholarship by ing up around Ghent as a result of the which he was able to visit-at such times recent invention of the photographic as did not conflict with his professorial "dry” plate. This immediately enlisted duties at Bruges—the higher educational the interest of young Baekeland. He soon institutions of England and Scotland, became absorbed in a detailed study of Germany, and the United States. The dry-plate manufacture to the neglect, of last trip of his traveling scholarship was course, of his studies at the Atheneum. to this country in the summer of 1889.
Upon his arrival at New York, BaekeA GENIUS IN CHEMISTRY
land found that his fame as a photoIn Ghent in those days there was an chemist had preceded him. Shortly after institution conducted upon somewhat the landing, he met a manufacturer of films same lines as the present Cooper Institute and photographic papers, who offered him of New York City—the Ghent Municipal a position in the chemical laboratory of his Technical School. Here, at evening, free factory. Baekeland accepted the offer. courses were given in various subjects. He stayed with this firm for two years. Chemistry, physics, and mechanics espe- Then what, in his own words, was "the cially delighted the practical-minded Baeke- most fortunate thing that ever happened" land. He lost no time in applying for to him occurred. This was a severe illness, entrance.
from which he recovered, after several Witness now a curious incongruity. The months, with all his money gone. laggard of the Atheneum by day soon acquired the habit of heading his classes
His 'INVENTION OF “VELOX" PAPER at the Technical School by night. In one “At this time," says Dr. Baekeland, subject particularly did he astonish his "I had in hand experiments with an teachers: this was in chemistry. It electrolytic process for extracting tin, a seemed that he had a natural genius for safety explosive, and a new photographic this study; before long, his originality and paper. The tin process had lost all its cleverness had earned for him the nick- charms since the swampy meadows of New name of "Little Wonder.” At the Tech- Jersey, where I was carrying out my experiments, had brought me within close latter (phenol, as it is known to chemists) acquaintance of the undertaker. Nor did and perhaps an equal amount of formalthe manufacture of explosives appeal dehyde. His object now was to cause a much to me after I had been for so many reaction of the formaldehyde upon the months in the hands of surgeons and carbolic acid by an intermingling of the physicians. So I turned to my old love, molecules of the two liquids. To produce photography, ready to manufacture some this reaction he added a small quantity of new kinds of photographic paper." hydrochloric acid and stirred the mixture.
He now formed a company for the manufacture of several photographic “gas
"A MINIATURE VOLCANO" light” papers of his invention. One of Then several mysterious phenomena these is the widely advertised “Velox” happened. At times the mixture would paper. The company had a rather hectic gently boil and slowly solidify into a albeit successful existence until it was resinous material which, when melted bɔught over by the Eastman company or dissolved, could be used as a substitute of Rochester. Free now to devote him- —though inferior in quality—for shellac. self to independent chemical research, he at Again, a grayish, crystalline substance this time turned his attention to the de- would result, which, when pulverized, velopment of industrial processes for the resembled powdered salt in its appearmanufacture of caustic soda and chloride of ance. Upon analysis this proved to be lime by means of electricity.
saligenin, a substance found in the willow But the achievements which, more than tree and used
tree and used medicinally. At other anything else, have distinguished Dr. times, however-particularly when the Baekeland among the industrial chemists experiment was tried on a large scale of this country are his discoveries that the result was a violent reaction that was resulted from a concentrated study of one strangely suggestive of a miniature volof the most remarkable of all chemical cano. Upon being stirred, the mixture phenomena--the reaction of formaldehyde would, as before, start to boil. Instead of on carbolic acid. The facts which he es- the boiling ceasing, however, it now tablished from his research into this com- gradually increased in its intensity. Pretty plicated chemical reaction have enabled soon the little “volcano" would begin to him to give to the industrial world the foam and sizzle and spit into the air new synthetic material already described. intensely hot, steaming particles—just
Common-or, as it is sometimes called, as its gigantic brothers, Etna in Italy and laurel-camphor constitutes the bulk of Sakurashima in Japan, belch forth hot, the camphor of commerce. It is the molten lava from the mouths of their product of the camphor laurel tree, which craters when they are in eruption. flourishes largely in Japan and Formosa. By this time the entire mixture was During the Russo-Japanese War, in 1904, in a state of foam, which had risen to the Japanese Government, to meet the the top of the glass beaker or other conheavy expenditures necessitated by the tainer and, in spasmodic gasps, overwar, levied taxes on many of its industries flowed its brim. The boiling had now at home, among these being the laurel subsided; the foam-of a dull, grayish camphor industry. This sent the price color-had gently contracted, just as any of camphor soaring-in some cases it made other foam does when effervescence ceases. the price prohibitive to American manu- In a few minutes, after it cooled, Dr. facturers who used it in large quantities. Baekeland examined it. To his surprise
These conditions inspired Dr. Baeke- he found an intensely hard, irregularly land to search for a synthetic substitute formed mass, gray-colored and porous, for laurel camphor. After many sub
After many sub- that, true to the analogy, looked for all the stances and reactions had been tried, he world like solidified lava. It completely decided to investigate this reaction of filled the testing-glass; the spasmodic formaldehyde on carbolic acid. Into a glass overflow, now solidified, of course, clung beaker he poured a small quantity of the to the brim and the outside surface like petrified barnacles to a sea stone. There enter! Might it not, for example, replace was no reclaiming the glass; the only way stone in many fields, or iron and steel? in which it could be separated from its Accordingly, he treated several pieces of distorted content was by smashing it. wood, first with carbolic acid, and then
Another chemist, Kleeberg, had tried with formaldehyde. Following the order the experiment described above and had of his first experiment, he then introduced obtained this same, lava-like mass. After the hydrochloric acid and eagerly awaited innumerable discouraging efforts Kleeberg the result. To his astonishment the demonstrated that this substance could reaction, in some instances, did not take neither be melted nor dissolved by any of place at all; in others, at best only feebly the solvents known to the world of chemical and very slowly. Contrary to his expectascience, and finally rejected it as a worth- tions, the wood, in some cases, instead of less product.
becoming neo-petrified actually became But in that phrase, “insoluble to all the softer. Upon investigation Baekeland disknown solvents," lay the gleam of inspira- cuvered the reasons for these remarkable tion for Baekeland. What if there ex- occurrences: the narrow, microscopic chanisted a solvent that the chemists through nels of the fibres of the wood had retarded the ages had not yet discovered? Sup- the reaction; for this very reason, before pose, he thought, it were possible to dis- the formaldehyde had had time to react solve this mass and reconstruct it to pro- upon the carbolic acid the latter had duce the original substance? Here was destroyed the fibre. Hence the softening, a liquid that had, before his very eyes, particularly in the hardwoods. solidified into a substance practically as Followed now a period of exhaustive hard as stone. What if it were possible study of every stage of this perhaps most to halt temporarily the process of solidifying remarkable of all chemical reactions. The while the mixture was still in its liquid facts which he established in this research state, apply it as a lacquer or varnish- resulted in his invention described in the to mention only one of a possibly myriadic early part of this article. The invention variety of usefulness-and then let the itself is one of the most interesting of recent process of hardening continue?
additions to the resources of the industrial It was a fanciful day dream. But in the chemical manufacturer.
chemical manufacturer. The scientific long days and nights that followed, days facts are of endless significance to that and nights of tireless experiment and great body of industrial chemists who, like patient research for the solvent that did the synthetic dyemakers, are producing not exist—that at the present day, so far new materials for the use of man that as it is within the ken of industrial chemists Nature herself had never created in her to know, does not exist–Dr. Baekeland seemingly inexhaustible laboratory, never for a moment lost sight of the Thus has Dr. Baekeland given to the essential potentialities of that dream, nor industrial world a new substance, the conviction as to their ultimate realization. range of utility of which is still in its stage
The hope of a solvent reluctantly aban- of development and discovery. It came doned, he now attacked his problem of into the world of materials with a name utilizing the worthless substance from a that is suggestive of its chemical constitunew angle. Hitherto, this insoluble ma- tion, but that is otherwise impossible: terial had resulted from a reaction that oxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride! Betook place in his testing-glass, before him. cause of the "baking” or heating processes Observe now the tenacity with which he through which it is put it was given a clung to his original dream. Instead of simpler name: "bakelite." producing the reaction in the glass, sup- Dr. Baekeland is a member of the repose, he reasoned, it were brought about cently organized United States Naval Coninside the fibres of wood? What wonder- sulting Board, and a past president of the ful tensile strength a piece of wood thus American Electrochemical Society, of the impregnated might possess; what American Institute of Chemical Engineers, undreamed-of fields of service it might and of the Chemists' Club of New York.
AN EFFECTIVE UNITED STATES
HOW THE GOVERNMENT IS COOPERATING WITH PRIVATE ENTERPRISE TO IM
PROVE THE PROCESSES OF MANUFACTURE AND THE METHODS OF
BUSINESS-THE STORY OF A NEW ERA OF MUTUAL HELPFULNESS
HE Government and the rest of of the Bureau of Mines. The first team the people of the United States play of the new division was to collaborate are working together for with the Chicago Fire Underwriters' Labogreater national efficiency.
efficiency. ratories in an investigation of fires at oil Sometimes the corporations
the corporations wells and storage tanks with a view to take the initiative in this team work, as checking this source of loss. The next, they did in the wireless telephone experi- was to send representatives through the ments in which two corporations and the oil fields of the Central West to meet state Government, by pooling their resources committees to discuss legislation. As the in brains and material, were thereby en- Bureau of Mines was a disinterested party abled to produce experimentally, a short its representatives were able to gain the time ago, a wireless telephone with which confidence of all concerned; and in Oklait was possible to talk from New York homa, at least, adequate legislation was across four thousand miles of land and sea enacted for the protection of the state's to Honolulu. Again, some commercial resources in oil and gas, which became organization may lead the way, as the Na- effective as soon as it was signed by the tional Foreign Trade Council did in the governor. And as a mark of appreciation matter of the ship registry law by which the Bureau received the thanks of numerseveral hundred thousands of tons of ship- ous organizations for its assistance. Co ping under other flags were transferred to operation did not end here. The producers American registry after the war broke out. in the Ada field asked the Bureau to recomBut more often it is the Government, mend an inspector to be paid by them for through one or more of its technologic or work in that field under the supervision of scientific bureaus, that conducts the eco- the Bureau. Furthermore, the new divinomic concert.
sion of the Bureau gained the confidence The results that have been achieved by and coöperation of the National Petroleum this coöperative work range from conser- Refiners' Association, the Oklahoma Indevation of natural resources and the estab- pendent Producers' Association, and the lishment of new industries to the creation Oklahoma Corporation Commission. of new markets for the Nation's products. Elsewhere employees of the Bureau de
For example, oil and natural gas, for vised traps for the separation of oil and gas years the source of great wealth, increasing coming from wells under high pressure and from a total value of $183,000,000 in 1908 showed producers how to use them; asto $300,000,000 in round numbers in 1915, sisted in the prosecution of persons illegally have at last reached the crest of production, operating on oil lands; standardized the according to the Government's experts, analytical distillation of petroleum; and and are now on the decline. Yet in some did a number of other tasks of that sort. oil fields only about 25 per cent. of the This might have been considered a fair petroleum is recovered, and the total value beginning for a new division in its first of oil and gas allowed to go to waste is year, but what has been related is the least estimated at $50,000,000 a year.
of its achievements. One member of the Observing this, the Government, on new division's staff was Dr. Walter F. Rittjuly 1, 1914, created the petroleum division man, a chemical engineer. Dr. Rittman
wanted to do some original research work petroleum. Toluol is an important base but lacked the necessary facilities. Not to for dyes and it is also used in the manufacbe baffled, he sought and obtained the co- ture of high explosives. Hitherto it has operation of Columbia University, where been derived exclusively from coal-tar, he could have the use of apparatus that the and the United States has been dependent Bureau could not supply, and there in- upon Germany for its supply. The counvented a process for the manufacture of try is already suffering from a dye-stuff low-boiling gasolenes from kerosene and famine; Dr. Rittman's work may help other distillates. The immense impor- largely to relieve it and to render us indetance of this discovery is indicated from the pendent of Europe both in peace and in fact that the Nation's production of crude war, so far as toluol is concerned, for several oil having a high gasolene content is falling concerns are now manufacturing it by the ot, while much of the new oil discovered Rittman process. This discovery might does not naturally contain gasolene, and have earned at least a competence for the likelihood of discovering important Dr. Rittman, but he dedicated it also to new fields is diminishing. At the same the free use of the public, after taking the ti.ne the United States had 2,250,000 precaution to patent it. By this means automobiles on the first of the year using the Government has been able to stipulate gasolene at the average rate of 500 gallons that licensed manufacturers shall give to a year; and this number was being increased the public any new ideas or processes they at the rate of more than a million ma- may develop. chines a year, not to mention 300,000 Other governmental bureaus have purmotor boats and 700,000 internal combus- sued the same policy of insuring the greattion engines in use on farms, all with in- est good to the greatest number with results satiable appetites for gasolene. In addi- quite as notable as those achieved by the tion to all this, we are now exporting Bureau of Mines. Of them all perhaps approximately 400 million gallons a year none has accomplished more of practical as compared with one fourth of ihat quan- value than the Bureau of Standards. tity eighteen months ago.
PUTTING SAFETY IN STEEL RAILS Altogether, it may be perceived that the Rittman process, which recovers three To give some idea of the character of the times as much gasolene from a given diversified work in which the Bureau of quantity of distillates as any process hither- Standards coöperates, take the case of the to used by independent producers, might steel rail. Thousands of rails break anhave made its discoverer a millionaire nually, many of them causing wrecks remany times over. But as it was developed sulting in loss of life and the destruction of on the Government's time with borrowed property running into millions of dollars, apparatus, Dr. Rittman dedicated his to say nothing of the interruption of traffic, process to the public, taking the precaution another source of loss to the railroads and to apply for a patent to enable the Govern- to their patrons. The railroads have done ment to retain proper control of it. Now their best, both through organizations and six concerns are producing gasolene by the individually, to find out what is the matter Rittman process under contract with the with the rails, and the steel makers have Government to cooperate in the same done the same. generous way that Dr. Rittman did by Outside organizations, like the American dedicating any new ideas or processes Society for Testing Materials and the they may develop to the free use of the American Society of Civil Engineers, have public. This is the sole condition imposed tried to help. The latter society appointed by the Government.
a committee to draft a standard design for Dr. Rittman next turned his attention rails which is in general use, and other comto a matter of still greater moment. This mittees have studied the causes of the rail was the discovery and development of a failures, which have been the subject of method of producing benzol and toluol interminable discussions in this and other and other aromatic hydrocarbons from societies. Most railroads in buying rails,