aluminums boy wonder
age 12, Charles Martin Hall began experimenting with minerals,
turning a small woodshed behind his home into a makeshift laboratory.
He first studied chemistry using an 1840s textbook from the shelves
of his minister fathers study. By age 16, he was a freshman
at Oberlin College, venturing into the chemistry lab to borrow
items he needed for his lab at home. His chemistry professor,
Frank Fanning Jewett, showed students a small bit of aluminum
and said the person who discovered an economical way to produce
the metal would become rich. Hall leapt at the challenge. Hall
was born in Thompson, Ohio, in 1863. He graduated from college
in 1885 and went back to his woodshed to work on the purification
of aluminum. His concept was to find a nonaqueous solvent for
aluminum oxide, in order to produce metallic aluminum by electrolysis
using carbon electrodes. On February 23, 1886, Hall found the
solvent he needed: molten cryolite, the mineral sodium aluminum
fluoride. He produced his first small bits of aluminum using the
cryolite, aluminum oxide and homemade batteries.
Hall founded the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, and in 1888, began
production of pure aluminum on a commercial scale. In 1907, the
company became the Aluminum Corporation of America (Alcoa).
He spent the next 25 years perfecting his process and developing
the aluminum industry.
In 1911, Hall was awarded the Perkin Medal for his accomplishments.
He died in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1914.