Edward G. Acheson

ECS President | 1908-1909

Edward G. AchesonEdward Goodrich Acheson was born in Washington, PA on March 9, 1856. He was a charter member and President of the Society (1908-1909). He was granted 70 patents on devices, techniques, and compositions of matter in the fields of mechanics, electricity, electrochemistry, and colloid chemistry. A steady flow of patents were granted him from the age of 30 to 70.

His father’s death required that he go the work at an early age. He worked as on various railroad jobs and did experiments after hours. Acheson became interested in the electrical field and decided to work for a manufacturer of electrical equipment. He first applied to Edward Weston who made electroplating dynamos but was turned down. Next he applied to Edison who put him to work on September 12, 1880 at his Menlo Park, NJ laboratory under John Kruesi (father of Paul Kruesi ECS Pres. 1928-1929). Acheson experimented on making a conducting carbon that Edison could use in his electric light bulbs. Edison recognized his inventive genius and advanced him quickly. As assistant chief engineer, Acheson spent 2½ years building generating plants and lamp factories in Europe.

He returned to New York in 1884 and became superintendent of a plant manufacturing lamps that competed with those invented by Edison. Acheson soon was on his own experimenting and inventing many new and useful things but none were to make his fortune until he discovered silicon carbide which he called Carborundum. It was found to be a better abrasive than any other known substance except diamond. In 1895 a plant was built in Niagara Falls and soon Carborundum was competitive with other abrasives.

Acheson continued to experiment and developed a process to make very pure graphite. The Acheson Graphite Co. was formed in 1899. In 1928 this company was merged with National Carbon Co.

Acheson also developed colloidal graphite products. Commercial forms were called Oildag and Aquadag manufactured by the Acheson Colloids Co.

Acheson received many honors and awards including the Perkin Medal and an honorary Doctor of Science degree. In 1928, Acheson provided funds to establish what is known as the Edward Goodrich Acheson Award. It is one of the highest honors the Society can bestow. Acheson himself was the first recipient in 1929. Over the years, the Acheson family has provided funds to maintain the Award as prestigious as any presented by other technical societies.