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Edward Goodrich Acheson

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Edward Goodrich Acheson (1856-1931)

1931 Obituary[1]


We regret to note the death, in New York, on July 6 last, of Dr. Edward Goodrich Acheson, for many years managing director of Messrs. E. G. Acheson, Limited, of 40, Wood-street, London, S.W.l, and president of Messrs. Acheson Graphite Company, Niagara Falls, N.Y., U.S.A. Dr. Acheson was born at Washington, Pennsylvania, on March 9, 1856, and received his education at the Academy at Bellefonte, in his native State. He had to earn his own living at a comparatively early age, however, and eventually, in 1880, became assistant to Mr. T. A. Edison. In that capacity, he came to Europe in charge of the installation of electric-lighting plants in various parts of the Continent. Returning to the United States in 1881, however, he began experimenting on his own account, and his researches led him to the discovery, in 1891, of a hard abrasive material to which he gave the name carborundum. Speaking before the Faraday Society, in London, in November, 1911, Dr. Acheson described the manner in which the discovery had been made as the result of heating mixtures of sand and coke in an arc furnace. As recorded in our columns at the time, a crystal of the material obtained could not only cut glass, but had “ spoilt the diamond in his ring.”

Dr. Acheson’s name, however, may perhaps be best remembered on account of his work in connection with artificial graphite lubricants. Upon overheating pieces of carborundum in an electric furnace, he found that the silicon had been driven off, leaving very soft lumps of graphite which retained the shape of the original pieces of carborundum. This fact induced him, in 1898, to take up the manufacture of synthetic graphite. He found that, by suitably modifying the conditions, he could obtain many varieties of graphite, using anthracite coal as the raw material. At one end of the scale, the material produced was hard and tough and was suitable for furnace electrodes; it could be turned, screwed and tapped. At the other end of the scale, a light and unctuous product was obtained which appeared to constitute an ideal lubricant. As liquid lubricants were preferred, Dr. Acheson tried to stir his finest graphite into oil, but found that the carbon settled quickly. In 1906, he discovered, as the result of researches in other directions, that if the graphite were treated with a solution of tannin in water and thoroughly masticated, a perfect colloidal solution of the graphite was obtained. To this he gave the name of deflocculated graphite, or “ dag ” (the initials of the words deflocculated Acheson graphite). The well-known graphited lubricants Aquadag, Oildag and Gredag are the outcome of these experiments. Dr. Acheson is also the originator of Siloxicon, a refractory powder, prepared in a manner somewhat similar to carborundum; its main constituent is Si2C2O.

The firm of Messrs. E. G. Acheson, Limited, was established in 1910 for the manufacture of graphited lubricants in this country, and a factory was erected at Plymouth. An illustrated description of these works appeared in Engineering, vol. xcvi, page 773 (1913), and it is there stated that Plymouth was chosen because an ample supply of soft water, essential to the manufacture of aquadag, was available.

In recognition of his work, Dr. Acheson was awarded the Rumford Medal by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in 1908, and the Perkin Medal by the American Section of the Society of Chemical Industry, in 1910. In 1908, he received the honorary degree of Sc.D. of Pittsburgh University. He was a past President of the American Electrochemical Society, a past vice-president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the American1 Mining Congress, the American Ceramic Society, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, and the Franklin Institute. He was also a member of several foreign institutions, including our own Society of Chemical Industry."

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