Thomas Edison, Chemistry & an Unexpected Richmond Hill Connection

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Richard H. Wallace, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry at Armstrong State University will go more in depth about the experimentation performed by Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

Even though most people think of Thomas Edison first as an inventor, it was his ability to understand and explore the chemistry behind his work that allowed him to succeed in so many different projects. In this presentation, we will look at some of Edison’s best-known inventions and the chemistry that allowed them to work. We will also spend time looking at Edison’s last project in detail, a search for a domestic source of rubber. This project was a massive undertaking that was actually a joint project between Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford. As part of our conversation around this project we will explore the restoration of the lab where a large amount of the experimental work was done, the Botanic Research Laboratory located at Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida.

Richard Wallace Short Bio

Dr. Wallace grew up in Pooler and attended Groves High School. He received a BS in Chemistry from Armstrong State College and a Ph.D. (in organic chemistry) from Clemson University. After graduation from Clemson, he carried out postdoctoral studies at Colorado State University and in 1990 joined the faculty at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In July of 1995, he accepted a faculty position at Armstrong and has been a faculty member at Armstrong since then.

During his career, he has been involved in a variety of different research projects including organic synthetic methodology, pharmaceutical drug development, agricultural chemistry, plant biotechnology and most recently the history of chemistry. He became especially interested in the connection between chemistry and the work of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford as a result of multiple conversations with his colleague Dr. Mark Finlay, Armstrong Professor of History.

This event is free for members of the society or $5 for non-members. Memberships will be availalbe at the event.