Thomas Midgley Jr. Facts

Thomas Midgley Jr. Facts
Thomas Midgley, Jr. (May 18, 1889 to November 2, 1944) was an American mechanical engineer and chemist. He worked with Charles F. Kettering and developed the tetraethyllead (TEL) additive to gasoline and some of the first chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Midgley was granted over a hundred patents for his discoveries. Unfortunately many of his inventions have had a disastrous impact on the environment.
Interesting Thomas Midgley Jr. Facts:
Thomas Midgley was born in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania but grew up in Columbus, Ohio.
In 1911 he earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University.
In 1916 he began working for General Motors at its Dayton Research Laboratory.
While there he discovered that adding tetraethyl lead to gasoline preventing "knocking," or pre-ignition, in internal combustion engines.
The substance was named "ethyl" by General Motors and all mention of lead was omitted.
The automobile industry promoted TEL fuels as superior because it greatly increased their profits.
In 1922 Midgley was awarded the Nichols Medal from the American Chemical Society for TEL.
In 1923 Midgley took a prolonged vacation stating, "After a year's work in organic lead I find that my lungs have been affected and that it is necessary to drop all work and get a large supply of fresh air."
In April 1923 General Motors created the General Motors Chemical Company to supervise the production of TEL.
Over the course of the eight year project, eight workers died of lead poisoning.
In 1924 General Motors partnered with Standard Oil to create the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation for producing and marketing TEL.
Within the first two months of its operation the new plant had five new deaths and cases of hallucinations and insanity brought about by exposure to lead.
In October 1924 Midgley claimed in a press conference that TEL was safe and even poured it over his hands and inhaled its vapors as a demonstration.
The State of New Jersey ordered the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation plant closed.
A few months after the press conference, Midgley went to Europe for treatment for lead poisoning.
In the 1920s refrigeration systems relied on ammonia, chloromethane, propane and sulfur dioxide but these were all either toxic or explosive or flammable.
The Frigidaire division of General Motors wanted an alternative refrigerant.
Charles Kettering, vice president of research for General Motors, assembled a team to study the problem.
They eventually synthesized Freon which they thought would be too stable to be toxic.
In 1937 Midgley received the Perkin Medal from The Society of Chemical Industry.
In 1941 he received the Priestley Medal from the American Chemical Society.
He was awarded the Willard Gibbs Award in 1942.
He contracted polio in 1942, which left him severely disabled.
He died of strangulation when he became tangled in the ropes of the device he invented to help him get out of bed.


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