November 16: Henry Carrington Bolton (1903)

H. Carrington Bolton was a celebrated chemist, author and scholar of national reputation on the history of chemistry. It was speculated that Bolton belonged to more scientific societies than any other American during the Gilded Age. Henry Carrington Bolton was born in New York City in 1843. Bolton graduated from Columbia College (New York) in 1862. He then studied abroad in Paris, Heidelberg and Göttingen where he received his PhD in 1866 from the University of Göttingen (Germany).  Bolton studied under many of the chemistry greats of the time: Wurtz, Dumas, Bunsen, Wohler and Hofmann. After his graduation, he spent some years in travel. From 1872 until 1877, he was assistant in quantitative analysis in the Columbia School of Mines. In 1874 he was appointed professor of chemistry in the Woman’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary. He resigned in 1877, when he became professor of chemistry and natural science in Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut.

The celebration of the centennial of chemistry at Northumberland, Pennsylvania, the home of Joseph Priestley, who discovered oxygen in 1774, was suggested and brought about by Bolton. Among his investigations, that of the action of organic acids on minerals is perhaps the most important, but most of his work was literary, and his private collection of early chemical books was unsurpassed in the United States. Bolton published large bibliographies of chemistry and later of all scientific periodicals, which are still used. Following his death in November 1903, Bolton’s funeral was held at the Church of the Epiphany before his interment in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, New York.

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