ECS President | 1902-1904
ECS Secretary | 1907-1921
Joseph William Richards was born in Oldbury, England in 1864. He came to the United States at the age of seven. He graduated from central High School in Philadelphia, Pa. in 1882. He continued his studies at Lehigh University obtaining a degree in Analytical Chemistry in 1886, a M.S. degree in 1891, and his Ph.D. in 1893. The same year, Dr. Richards was appointed Assistant Instructor in Metallurgy and Blowpiping at Lehigh University in various positions until his death on October 12, 1921: Instructor in Metallurgy, and Blowpiping, 1890-1897; Assistant Professor, 1897-1902; Professor of Metallurgy, 1903-1921.
Dr. Richards was characterized as a quiet, gentle man with a “soul of honor”. He loved to teach and give his time freely to his students. He was noted for his punctuality. Students claimed they can tell the time of day by his coming and going. He traveled a great deal and was an enthusiastic member of National Geographic Society. He was a connoisseur and collector of pictures. His greatest joy, outside his work, was the Bach Choir of Bethlehem.
During World War I, Professor Richards was a member of the Naval Consulting Board, of which Thomas Edison was Chairman. He became a “dollar-a-year” man, closed his home, and went to live in Washington, D.C. where he worked for nearly two years without taking a vacation.
As a metallurgical engineer of international reputation, his services were widely sought. He was a member of many commissions and committees. Prof. Richards was a charter member and principal organizer of the Electrochemical Society. He was the first president and the only one to serve two consecutive terms, 1902 and 1903. In 1907, he took on the work of secretary of the Society and served with great devotion and energy until his death in 1921.
Prof. Richards was a member of the Franklin Institute, President of the Chemical Section, 1897, 1899, and Professor of Electrochemistry of the Institute, 1907-1910. He was the member of the Faraday Society, Deutche Bunsen Gesellschaft, American Chemical Society, American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, Iron and Steel Institute of Great Britain, American Iron and Steel Institute, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, National Research Council, and an Honorary Member of the American Electroplates’ Society.
He was the author of a treatise on Aluminum in 1887, revised in 1895; of Metallurgical Calculations, Part 1, and General Metallurgy in 1906; of Part 2, iron and Steel, 1907; of Part 3, Non-ferrous Metals, 1908; and many papers published in the Society’s Transactions and other scientific journals. He translated many books from German and Italian to English:”Electrolysis of Water”, “Electrometallurgy of Chromium”, “Arrangement of Electrolytic laboratories”, “Electrolytic Production of Metallic Objects”, and “Cementation of Iron and steel”.