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«NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS PART OF VOLUME IX BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIR OF JAMES MASON CRAFTS ...»

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NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS

PART OF VOLUME IX

BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIR

OF

JAMES MASON CRAFTS

1839-1917

BY

CHARLES R. CROSS

PRESENTED TO THE ACADEMY AT THE ANNUAL MEETING, 1918

CITY OF WASHINGTON

PUBLISHED BY THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

November, 1919

JAMES MASON CRAFTS

1839-1917 BY CHARLES R. CROSS James Mason Crafts was born at Boston, March 8, 1839.

His father, Royal Altemont Crafts, was a well-known merchant and manufacturer of woolens of that city. His mother, Marian Mason Crafts, was a daughter of the noted lawyer and statesman, Jeremiah Mason, of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and later of Boston. He married Miss Clemence Haggerty, of New York, June 13, 1868, who died in 1912, several years before her husband. His death, after some years of impaired health, occurred at his summer home at Ridgefield, Connecticut, on June 20, 1917. He is survived by four daughters, Mrs. Russell S. Codman of Boston, Mrs. Gordon K.

Bell of New York, and Misses Elizabeth S. and Clemence Crafts, of Boston. The two last-named have more recently devoted themselves most earnestly to the cause of the French War Charities.

As a boy, young Crafts had an unusual fondness for scientific subjects and carried on much systematic.experimentation in a laboratory of his own. His liking for science was fostered by the prominence given to it in the Lowell Institute lectures and by the interest shown in his own studies by his elders of scientific training, especially by Professor William B. Rogers, later to become the founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He entered the Lawrence Scientific School and pursued there the course in chemistry, graduating with the degree of S. B. in 1858, but continued his studies under Professor Horsford during a portion of the following year. He spent the next few years in study abroad at Freiburg, Heidelberg, and Paris. The University of Heidelberg was then at the height of its scientific reputation, since Helmholtz, Kirchhoff, and Bunsen filled the three leading scientific professorships. Mr. Crafts came into intimate relations with

NATIONAL ACADEMY BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS VOL. IX

Bunsen and had the good fortune to work under him, acting as his assistant while the new art of spectrum analysis was in process of application to the discovery of what were then called the "new metals." At Paris he studied under Wurtz and published a number of scientific papers, both under his own name and also jointly with Charles Friedel. Friedel and Crafts became close personal friends and co-workers in many scientific researches in later years.

In 1866-7, having returned to this country, Mr. Crafts spent a short time in professional work in the inspection of mines.

Upon the opening of Cornell University he became, in 1868, Professor of Chemistry, in charge of the department, remaining there until 1871.

In 1869 the resignation of Mr. Charles W. Eliot, Professor of Analytical Chemistry and Metallurgy in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, upon his election to the presidency of Harvard University, followed by that of Mr. Francis H. Storer, Professor of General and Industrial Chemistry, who had in 1870 accepted the position of Professor of Agricultural Chemistry in the newly organized Bussey Institute, practically vacated the department of its professors.

The corporation desired that the new incumbents of the positions should be especially interested in the teaching and development of Industrial Chemistry and Analytical and Organic Chemistry respectively. To fill the first of these vacancies Professor John M. Ordway was chosen and Professor Crafts for the second. His ability and reputation were such that his accession to the staff of the institute was warmly welcomed both by teachers and students.

There was no graduate instruction given in the institute at that time and there were few students who made a specialty of chemistry. Those who did, however, found themselves fortunate in receiving a training which aimed to make scientific men as well as skillful analysts. Professor Crafts encouraged them to undertake "the investigation of unsolved problems," and a number of very creditable published papers resulted.

His scientific standing at this time was recognized in his election to membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 1872.

JAMES MASON CRAFTS CROSS

He continued his teaching and the development of the laboratory until 1874, when impaired health made it advisable for him to relinquish this taxing work. Personal reasons and the scientific resources open to him in Paris, whose value he had already learned by experience, led him to take up a temporary residence there. It was expected that this would be only for a year or two and he remained a member of the institute faculty until 1880, when it had become apparent that his stay abroad would be indefinitely prolonged. He therefore resigne'd his position, much to the regret of his colleagues.





While on active duty Professor Crafts was an earnest worker in the faculty, especially in the furtherance of a rigid and broad scientific training. With several others he was particularly interested in the establishment of advanced courses of study and research in chemistry, physics, and other branches which should lead to a higher degree. That of Doctor of Science was then established, although it has never been given.

The time was not ripe for such work. Indeed, it was not until 1907 that the institute conferred any degree of Doctor, which was Ph.D.

Professor Crafts remained in France until 1891, during which time he was almost constantly engaged in research, chiefly at the ficole des Mines, and very largely in conjunction with Priedel. These labors bore important fruit, as is manifested in the long list of valuable papers published by them, chiefly in the Comptes Rendus and the Bulletin of the Chemical Society of Paris. Among these researches that relating to the use of aluminium chloride as a method of synthesis, the "Friedel and Crafts Reaction," has proved to be of exceedingly great value. The Friedel Memorial Lecture given before the Chemical Society of London in 1900 by Professor Crafts contains a very complete resume of Friedel's work, with a charmingly written brief sketch of his life history, which considers incidentally conditions relating to scientific preferment in France and moreover throws an interesting light on some phases of the religious views prevalent in that country at that time and especially of those which existed in certain provinces a generation earlier. It is an astonishing revelation of intolerance to learn that the wife of Friedel, when a child, lived

NATIONAL ACADEMY BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS VOL. IX

"near Nismes in a house where the coffins of her relations occupied one of the drawing rooms because as Protestants they were refused Christian burial." The sanitary results of such a custom may be imagined.

The studies referred to were recognized by the award to Professor Crafts in 1880 of a Jecker Prize of 2,000 francs by the Paris Academy of Sciences, "for his researches relative to organic chemistry." In 1885 he was further made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

During these years he also began an important series of researches relating to high-temperature thermometry, to which fuller reference will be made later.

Upon his return to this country he was made a member of the corporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was also invited by President Walker again to join the instructing staff. He became Professor of Organic Chemistry in 1892. Regarding the appointment President Walker said: "The accession of a chemist of Professor Crafts' reputation, a teacher of his experience and exceptional powers of inspiring interest and enthusiasm on the part of the students, marks an era in the history of the Institute." He continued to occupy this position for five years, carrying on his researches meanwhile, when he was called on to take up new and heavy duties.

The sudden death of General Walker, in January, 1897, made a vacancy in the office of president of the institute, which it was evident would be extremely difficult to fill. The number of available men proved to be very small, and after much search the committee charged with the business of selection found itself unable to come to a decision. Professor Crafts, who had been the spontaneous choice of the faculty as its chairman, had already been urged to accept the presidency, but had absolutely refused even to consider this, being entirely unwilling to break off his scientific researches and engage in executive work. A few months later, however, conditions had arisen which led him to see that it was very necessary for the best good of the institute that he should reconsider his determination. He was therefore made president in 1898, which office he held for two years.

JAMES MASON CRAFTS CROSS

Soon after his accession to the presidency he received the degree of LL. D. from Harvard University.

As an executive officer, President Crafts showed the same characteristics which had been evident in his earlier career.

His long experience as a scientific man and acquaintance with scientific education in this country and abroad, together with his wide knowledge of the industries, gave him a very clear and true perception of the needs of a school of technology which should train men capable of meeting the professional calls of the future as they should arise, whatever these might be.

In his annual reports to the corporation there is much regarding the general considerations which apply to technological education that is valuable at the present day. The occasional addresses delivered by him were of great interest and gave evidence of a remarkable breadth of literary and historical knowledge entirely apart from science. It is to be regretted that they were not published. While he was greatly hampered by lack of means, nevertheless important extensions were made in the facilities for instruction and research in many directions.

A timely bequest enabled the institute to erect the Henry L.

Pierce Building under his direction, which was not only excellently adapted for the purposes for which it was planned, but also, while of simple architectural design, was very satisfactory in its external appearance.

In his relations with his faculty he was invariably fair, just, consistent, and considerate of all interests. Measures which he presented to them he urged wholly on their merit and never through the authority of his position.

During the administration of President Crafts, two educational questions arose which are especially worthy of mention here.

At the wish of the Secretary of the Navy, there was laid out a three-year course in Naval Construction, particularly of war-ships, to be pursued by selected graduates of the United States Naval Academy. Various hindrances delayed further action in this direction for the time being, but the outcome was the establishment, a few years later, of such a course along the lines originally laid down, which has continued up to the present time.

NATIONAL ACADEMY BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS VOL. IX

President Crafts, like many others at that time and since, was strongly impressed with the belief that it would be greatly to the advantage of scientific and technical instruction in this country if in some way an arrangement of affiliation could be brought about between the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University and the Institute of Technology, so that the two institutions should work in harmony and join their forces for a common end as far as might be practicable, while retaining the independence of each.

Informal consideration of the matter led to the appointment of a committee composed of members of the corporations of the two institutions. The various possibilities of co-working were considered and a detailed plan was drawn up which was acceptable to the members of the joint committee. President Crafts felt very earnestly that the course of action proposed would be for the best good of both institutions at that time and in the future. But as this came to be considered more widely by those with whom the final decision rested, difficulties arose which ultimately led to its abandonment, though with the expressed hope "that as friends and earnest promoters of instruction we can so direct the course of our respective institutions that they shall mutually help one another and avoid duplication of work."

This termination of the endeavors of the committee was a great disappointment to Professor Crafts, not because a plan which he favored had failed, but rather because in his judgment a promising opportunity for the advancement of scientific education had been lost.

The labors of the presidential office, although he carried them with complete success, were not really attractive to him, especially as he found that they necessarily precluded a continuance of his scientific work, and, unwilling to set this aside permanently, he resigned the presidency in 1900.

It was felt by all his colleagues that to lose him entirely would be most unfortunate. A private laboratory was therefore provided for him, and this he fitted up according to his wishes as was necessary for the continuance of his researches.

As a result of his work at this time there appeared several

JAMES MASON CRAFTS CROSS

papers on Catalysis. He devoted himself particularly, however, to another line of research.

A few years after the beginning of his long term of labor in Paris, he had entered upon a series of physical researches.



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