Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Alcoa! Founded Oct 1, 1888

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported yesterday that Alcoa kicked off its 125th Anniversary, observing Oct. 1, 1888 as the founding of the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, "after Mr. Hunt and a handful of other steel executives bought the rights to Mr. Hall's patent for a low-cost way to smelt aluminum. Mr. Hall had made the discovery two years earlier."

Charles Martin Hall made that discovery in the woodshed behind his family's home on East College Street, as every Oberlin student should know, with the encouragement and guidance of Oberlin College chemistry professor Frank Fanning Jewett.  Emeritus Professor Norman C. Craig tells an inspiring story of the race to discover what ultimately was called the Hall-Heroult process:

Craig, Norman C., "Charles Martin Hall-the young man, his mentor, and his metal", Journal of Chemical Education (1986), 63(7), 557-9.

Oberlin celebrated Hall's discovery in 2011.  In a private email message today to the Administrative and Professional Staff Council, a retired member of the Alcoa company pointed out that the legacy of C.M. Hall to Oberlin was dependent upon the establishment of the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, which ultimately led to today's Alcoa.  Oberlinians are very grateful for the inventive genius and philanthropy of Charles Martin Hall, and to the industrialization that made his process so successful.

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