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Frederick Gardner Cottrell

Frederick Gardner Cottrell (1877-1948) was an American physical chemist and inventor. A native of Oakland, California, his immense curiosity gained him notice as a prodigious reader. But his achievements were also an ambitious response to economic necessity. He finished high school, entered the University of California, Berkeley at age 16 and graduated in 3 years. Pursuing graduate work in Germany, he received an advanced degree from the University of Berlin in 1901 and a Ph.D. from the University of Leipzig in 1902.

Returning to a professorship at the University of California, he embarked on work which would culminate in 1908 with a patent for the electrostatic precipitator. It remains a principal technology for pollutant removal from industrial waste flows to this day. Cottrell recognized the business potential of his invention and decided to use it to fund scientific research through the creation of the Research Corporation in 1912 to which he assigned his and other patents. Among the first established in the U.S., this foundation continues to provide vital funding to many scientific projects. Past beneficiaries include the following:

  • Goddard's rocketry experiments
  • Lawrence's cyclotron
  • Production methods for vitamins A and B1

Cottrell later served as director of the U.S. Bureau of Mines and was instrumental in helium production during World War I. In 1921 he began work with the National Research Council, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fixed Nitrogen Laboratory. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1939.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Frederick_Gardner_Cottrell". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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