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Thomas Midgley

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Frederick The Monk
64598.  Mon Apr 10, 2006 5:46 am Reply with quote

Thomas Midgley invented CFCs and introduced lead into petrol. As such historian John McNeill remarked in his book on the environmental history of the twentieth century that Midgley "had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in earth history."

From Eggshaped:

Quote:
Meet Thomas Midgley. He gave us two ancient goods that've grown uncouth.
Born in 1889, Midgely did an engineering Ph.D. at Cornell. In 1916 he joined Charles Kettering's Lab in Dayton, Ohio.

Kettering was marketing a small kerosene engine to drive home-lighting systems on farms. It knocked horribly. Midgely guessed that dyeing the fuel red might cause it to absorb more heat and knock less. That was terrible physics. But when he doped the kerosene with iodine, there was less knock.
Midgely set out to find a better antiknock additive.

First he wasted time with a hit-and-miss search. Then he began working systematically through the periodic table. After six years he found that tetraethyl lead worked beautifully.

So Ethyl gasoline swept America. Questions about its toxicity came up right away and lingered for sixty years. Finally, we introduced the new catalytic converters to combat other pollutants. They strangled on leaded gas, so we gave up lead. It certainly had been a health threat. But it also allowed the modern auto engine to evolve.

Midgely took only three days to make his second great contribution. Early refrigeration units used nasty chemicals like sulfur dioxide and ammonia. We needed something better. Midgely went back to the periodic table and invented dichloroflouromethane -- the first of the Freons.

The Freons aren't toxic at all. So they served us long and well. Then we found they were eating up our protective ozone layer. Now the survival of Earth depends on giving up Freons. We're replacing them with new chlorine-free chemicals.

So, Midgley changed American life twice. Both times his inventive heritage was life-threatening. And his final invention was really death-dealing, as it turns out.

He contracted polio when he was 51. As he lost the use of his legs, he invented a harness to get himself out of bed. On Nov. 2, 1944, he tangled in the gadget. It strangled him.

Midgely studied history, loved music, wrote poetry. His inventions shaped and changed us. Then we had to leave them behind. So we weigh his life. Kettering boasted that Midgley was his own greatest discovery. He might well have been.

 
Frederick The Monk
64599.  Mon Apr 10, 2006 5:50 am Reply with quote

Question:Which single organism has had the greatest impact on the earth's atmosphere.

Forfeits:

Answer: Thomas Midgley

Notes: Midgley invented CFCs and the addition of lead to petrol.

Born in 1889, Midgely did an engineering Ph.D. at Cornell. In 1916 he joined Charles Kettering's Lab in Dayton, Ohio.

Kettering was marketing a small kerosene engine to drive home-lighting systems on farms. It knocked horribly. Midgely guessed that dyeing the fuel red might cause it to absorb more heat and knock less. That was terrible physics. But when he doped the kerosene with iodine, there was less knock.
Midgely set out to find a better antiknock additive.

First he wasted time with a hit-and-miss search. Then he began working systematically through the periodic table. After six years he found that tetraethyl lead worked beautifully.

So Ethyl gasoline swept America. Questions about its toxicity came up right away and lingered for sixty years. Finally, we introduced the new catalytic converters to combat other pollutants. They strangled on leaded gas, so we gave up lead. It certainly had been a health threat. But it also allowed the modern auto engine to evolve.

Midgely took only three days to make his second great contribution. Early refrigeration units used nasty chemicals like sulfur dioxide and ammonia. We needed something better. Midgely went back to the periodic table and invented dichloroflouromethane -- the first of the Freons.

The Freons aren't toxic at all. So they served us long and well. Then we found they were eating up our protective ozone layer. Now the survival of Earth depends on giving up Freons. We're replacing them with new chlorine-free chemicals.

So, Midgley changed American life twice. Both times his inventive heritage was life-threatening. And his final invention was really death-dealing, as it turns out.

He contracted polio when he was 51. As he lost the use of his legs, he invented a harness to get himself out of bed. On Nov. 2, 1944, he tangled in the gadget. It strangled him.

Midgely studied history, loved music, wrote poetry. His inventions shaped and changed us. Then we had to leave them behind. So we weigh his life. Kettering boasted that Midgley was his own greatest discovery. He might well have been.

Links to:

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Midgley

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Researcher: JP

 
eggshaped
64782.  Tue Apr 11, 2006 3:29 am Reply with quote

Fred, it looks like I lifted that passage in its entirity from here. It might be worth rewording a bit for the notes.

 

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