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James Crafts

James Mason Crafts (March 8 1839 – 20 June 1917) was an American chemist, most known for developing the Friedel-Crafts alkylation and acylation reactions with Charles Friedel in 1876.



James Crafts was born in Boston, Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard University in 1858.

Although he never received his Ph.D., he studied chemistry in Germany at the Academy of Mines (1859) of Freiberg and as Robert Bunsen's assistant at Heidelberg, then in Paris (1861) in Wurtz's laboratory.

He there first met Charles Friedel, with whom he later carried out some of his most successful research. He returned to the United States in 1865. In 1868, he was appointed as the first professor of chemistry at the newly founded Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he remained until 1870.

During the following four years he acted as professor of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but in 1874 took leave of absence, joined Friedel in Paris, and devoted himself exclusively to scientific research. Upon his second return to the United States in 1891, he became professor of organic chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1892-97) where he served as president from 1898 to 1900. In 1900, he resigned the presidency of MIT, and again turned to the investigation of problems in organic and physical chemistry.


His investigations were largely in the field of organic chemistry, but his name is connected also with many interesting achievements in physics and in physical chemistry. He invented a new hydrogen thermometer; measured the densities of iodine at very high temperatures; demonstrated an interesting regularity in the variation of the boiling points of chemically allied substances with the external pressure; prepared a number of new compounds of the element silicon, which are interesting because of their chemical resemblance to the corresponding compounds of carbon; and also prepared new compounds of arsenic. But his most important achievement was the discovery, jointly with Friedel, of one of the most fruitful synthetic methods in organic chemistry.

Hundreds of new carbon compounds have been brought into existence by this method ([1]), which is based on the catalytic action of the chloride of aluminium.


In recognition of Crafts's services to science, the French government made him a chevalier of the Legion of Honor (1885), and the British Association for the Advancement of Science made him one of its corresponding members.

Harvard University conferred on him the honorary degree of LL.D. in 1898.

The Crafts entry at MIT's Senior House dormitory is named in his honor.


The numerous results of Dr. Crafts' researches were published in various scientific periodicals, mainly European, as was custom in his time. He also wrote a textbook of Qualitative Analysis (1869, and several later editions).

  • This article incorporates text from an edition of the New International Encyclopedia that is in the public domain.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "James_Crafts". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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