Saturday, 8 June 2013

The man who changed the Earth more than any other being Thomas Midgley Jr.

 Omul care a schimbat Terra mai mult decât oricare altă fiinţă: Thomas Midgley Jr.

18 May 1889 remained in human history as the day he was born who would change the face of the earth than any other being Thomas Midgley Jr. Today, his name is known to a few people, few knowing life story its inventions that have transformed society and ecosystems.
In the 55 years of his life, Thomas Midgley caused a transformation of the Western lifestyle, making possible the development of American society in the style known: houses in the suburbs, huge shopping malls and popular hot area of ​​the southern United States.
Early Years of Thomas Midgley Jr.
Midgley was born into a family of inventors: his father and grandfather owned patents, and his ancestors had worked for James Watt, inventor of the steam engine.
In 1905, while attending a school in Connecticut, young Thomas was faced with a situation that had to familiarize themselves with scientific instruments that allowed him to break trail men in his family: a dispute with a teacher. During the first hour of chemistry Midgley Jr. attended., The teacher said to the class that the periodic table is a proof of God's existence. Young Thomas was not agree with the statement of the teacher.
"We fought. I have argued that the only thing the periodic table demonstrates is that atoms are composed of smaller particles. Dispute lasted for days and weeks, but was by no means one pointless. Along that debate I am familiar with the periodic table, which I stuck in my mind as a very useful tool in research work, "he later told Midgley jr.
Thomas decided to follow his father and joined the faculty of mechanical engineering from Cornell University. Despite further innovated in chemistry, has studied in college than they were taught the basics of all future engineers at Cornell. During college were noted by conscientiousness, studying the minimum required in most courses, in order to focus on those that interested him.
After graduating in 1911, Thomas got his first job in the company National Cash Register (NCR), headquartered in Dayton, Ohio. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Dayton was a genuine innovation center, the place where the Wright brothers built the aircraft that carried out the first controlled flight in the history of aeronautics. Midgley worked one year at NCR, where he discovered his passion for industrial research and met the man who would play a pivotal role in his life: Charles Kettering.
Year spent in the NCR made the Midgley to want to do experiments to discover new products, but the economic context of the time was not yet favorable. Thomas had to spend the next year working for his father in a company that sell tires. In 1916, the family business went bankrupt, Midgley found himself in a critical situation. "Suddenly, I was without a job, a wife and two children to support and very little money in the bank. I paid a quick trip through the country, contacting numerous people from various industries, but I have not found a job after my own heart . When I returned home, I took the most important decision of my life: I decided to work for Mr. Kettering, regardless of the salary offered, and see what happens, "he later said Midgley.


Midgley's first discovery that would change the Earth
Omul care a schimbat Terra mai mult decât oricare altă fiinţă: Thomas Midgley Jr.
When Midgley became employee of Kettering, car for masses was an invention of only 10 years old. Horse carriage continue to be the primary means of locomotion. Statistics show that 74,000 horses lived in New York in 1896, each day on the streets leaving about 10 pounds of manure. In many neighborhoods, it was close to 10 feet tall mounds. Moreover, every year the streets were abandoned corpses of 8,000 horses that were feeding flies, rats and pigs poor living in the city.
Charles Kettering was one of those who have allowed cities to become more clear, his contribution consists in facilitating the means of locomotion replacement animal drawn by the traction motor. Initially, automobile engines were started with a crank that opposes such force that could break the arm of the most powerful man. Kettering came up with a great innovation, used today: the electrical ignition engines. Its invention allowed double car market, while enabling a significant step for women's empowerment.
While, Kettering came up with new inventions in the automotive field, obtaining numerous patents. However, he said that "the greatest discovery I ever made was Tom Midgley". The motivation of this statement was to solve a problem that affect most engines in the early twentieth century: the detonation. Detonation occur when the fuel and air mixture burns with a very high speed, hitting the pistons in the engine.
Before World War I, each driver was familiar with the issue of internal combustion engines. This phenomenon of "hammering" (knock, as it is called in English) occur when burning fuel in an abnormal, leading to the destruction of its engines. Cars were not the only vehicles affected by this issue: and pistons from aircraft engines used by the U.S. Army in World War were destroyed in turn because of detonation.
The detonation was recorded in engines affected by the type of fuel used. As these have a higher octane, the knock occur rarely. Fuels of this type, however, were rare and expensive in the 20s, so that the American auto industry is at a crossroads: the producers could opt for smaller engines, highly efficient, but requiring expensive gasoline, high octane, or large motors that could run on fuel with an octane number lower, but much cheaper.
The main customer research laboratory was working Kettering General Motors (GM), which attempt to dethrone the famous Model T, the car manufactured by Ford that had a huge success in the U.S. at that time. In order to sell a large number of customer cars, GM could resort to expensive fuel. At the same time, the public had no way to be taken over by a car whose driver suffering from detonation.
This problem would be solved by Midgley. Studied, Thomas noticed that all substances were composed of chemical elements knock grouped in the right corner of the periodic table and the elements at the bottom with heavy atoms, were very effective as antidetonare substances. For this reason, lead seemed a promising candidate, telling Midgley later that "we predicted that leaded detonation will fix this problem."
Tetraethyl lead, a rare and poisonous compound, was discovered by a German chemist in 1852. In 1921, after 75 years, an assistant Midgley's lab managed to produce a very small amount of this substance. After pouring a teaspoon of tetraethyl lead in gasoline in an engine damaged by blasting, noise was replaced immediately by spinning motor. Testing amounts becoming smaller Midgley's team found that it was sufficient concentration leaded to only 0.05% for fuel to burn more slowly and avoid detonation. After 3 years of searching, Midgley find the treasure that would make him a very rich man.
The negative consequences of the discovery of Midgley
Omul care a schimbat Terra mai mult decât oricare altă fiinţă: Thomas Midgley Jr.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, lead was used in many products to the general public, despite the fact that they knew it was dangerous. Since the metal pot used to pesticides and toothpaste tubes, lead can be found everywhere. However, people have been exposed to high concentrations lead to the entry of the gas.
Lead is a neurotoxin, and prolonged exposure can damage the brain and central nervous system irreparably. The symptoms associated with lead exposure include blindness, deafness, renal failure, cancer, paralysis and more. In severe cases, victims have terrifying hallucinations after falling into a coma and die.
However, Midgley's discovery promises to be extremely profitable. Lead was easy to extract and solve engine damage, so General Motors, Du Pont and Standard Oil, three of the largest U.S. companies at the time, decided in 1923 to found together Ethyl Gasoline Corporation to produce leaded . The new fuel was on sale on February 1, 1923 as the "ethyl" chosen to avoid association with lead.
From the beginning, the workers who worked in the factory where it was produced leaded showed symptoms of lead poisoning. Two months after its founding, one of the workers started to delirium, screaming that sees three men bound for him, wanting to attack. Because hallucinations, man could not be taken to the hospital but by the intervention of four people and health professionals have had to keep him in bed bound with a straitjacket. Despite the intervention of doctors, the worker died three days later.
The case was not singular in the first months of operation of the plant dying 15 people, so that reporters from local newspapers began to become interested. When company spokesman was contacted by the press, he said that "most likely, these people were mad because they worked too hard."
Despite the company's efforts to mask the devastating effects of lead, workers continued to be affected. In a plant where it was processed tetraethyl lead, 80% of workers began to suffer from psychotic disorder, with hallucinations of insects that invaded their bodies.
To counter rumors that began to spread through the media, Thomas Midgley decided to organize a demonstration in front of reporters to show that tetraethyl lead is not dangerous. Inventor and poured the substance on hands and took a container under your nose, smelling substance for a minute, telling journalists that he could repeat the operation every day with no problem. The truth was quite different: Midgley was fully aware of the risks of lead exposure since suffered serious health problems a few months ago for this reason.
In the coming years, all research on the harmful effects of lead have been funded even huge companies that make a profit by selling tetraethyl so that the public did not know the dangers they are exposed. When a 1943 study found that exposure to lead during childhood leads to behavior problems, the researcher was threatened with a lawsuit, so he gave up studying the problem.
Clair Patterson, the hero lead the fight against pollution
Omul care a schimbat Terra mai mult decât oricare altă fiinţă: Thomas Midgley Jr.
Clair Patterson was a geologist famous for having been the first person who was able to calculate the exact age of the earth, 4.550 billion years, measuring the isotopes of lead in rocks. During this extraordinary scientific effort that lasted about 7 years old, Patterson noted that all rocks exposed to air showed an immense quantities of lead, sometimes 200 times higher than would be expected.
After announcing the completion of the study on age of our planet in 1953, geologist focused on the problem of lead in the atmosphere. Throughout its documentation, Patterson noted that all studies that treat the effects of lead on humans were funded by manufacturers of lead additives. With time, the expert was convinced that he identified lead in the atmosphere is due to the operation of huge amounts of cars, but this was difficult to prove.
At one point, Patterson and realized that Greenland could be the key to resolving this problem. Annually, the snow that falls on this island is deposited in distinct layers. Patterson realized by analyzing samples of successive deposits of ice, may find the amount of lead present in the atmosphere each year. His study showed that before 1923 the atmosphere was not found almost no lead, then the presence of this heavy metal in the air to grow at a rapid pace.
Aware of the risks of lead exposure, Patterson decided to devote his life to attempting to remove lead from fuel. What the researcher did not know at the time was that the Ethyl Corporation became a veritable giant whose influence touched the whole society. First, Patterson noted that his studies do not obtain funding from any institution, even from the government. Then representatives of Caltech University, where he was employed Patterson, received an offer hard to refuse from the company Ethyl, who offered to fund a significant amount if a teacher was fired.
Ignoring pressures, the researcher did not give in its efforts to raise awareness of how many people the harmful effects of lead in the atmosphere. When the U.S. government relented and in 1971 formed a committee to analyze the effects of lead in the air, Patterson was not accepted in it, though the scientist who studied the issue thoroughly.
Finally, Patterson saw his dream come true: the authorities were aware of the danger is the lead on human health, while being removed from fuels placed on the market (after the Ethyl lost the appeal this decision). Studies have shown that blood lead levels of U.S. citizens decreased by 80% after leaded gasoline was banned. Even so, experts estimate that people today have 625 times more lead in their blood compared to those who lived a century ago.
Neuroscientists say that banning lead in fuel has increased by a few IQ population by reducing the damaging effect that this neurotoxin has on the brain, especially in children. A statistical study showed that the level of violence and crime in the U.S. have a direct connection with leaded fuel utilization rate. In all countries surveyed, about 20 years after the ban of lead there is a massive decline in crime levels, as advancing age children with less exposure to lead.
So Thomas Midgley Jr. innovation that brought her in car led to a radical change of the planet, affecting the lives of billions of organisms. Tetraethyl lead was, however, the only way American engineer changed the Earth.
Omul care a schimbat Terra mai mult decât oricare altă fiinţă: Thomas Midgley Jr.
The second innovation by Midgley, a new threat

Encouraged by the success of leaded gasoline, Midgley decided to try to solve another problem that characterized technological age in which he lived: the dangerous gas operated refrigerators.

The cooling apparatus operated by means of gas are such that the refrigerator can become a lethal weapon where it was sealed. One such case occurred in 1929 in Cleveland, when over 100 people died because of a faulty fridge that gas escape. For this reason, refrigerators were banned in hospitals. To avoid future disasters, Midgley decided to look for a new gas to operate cooling equipment sold by the company Frigidaire.

The engineer wanted to get a safe gas that can be breathed safely and that is not corrosive or flammable. Midgley's search was crowned with success: studying the periodic table, the engineer discovered that all items used for cooling were grouped in the same area and one of the items had not been carefully studied. After some calculations, Midgley has identified a new class of compounds that meet all requirements: chlorofluorocarbons (known today under the name of CFC).
Omul care a schimbat Terra mai mult decât oricare altă fiinţă: Thomas Midgley Jr.
In 1930, Midgley presented its new breakthrough in the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society. The engineer reported that the new gas is neither toxic nor flammable and then resorted to a demonstration spectacular lit a candle, then inhaled a large amount of gas in the chest and breathed slowly over flame, who died instantly.

Midgley's new discovery was crowned with success, so that in a few years CFCs were used in a wide range of products, from refrigerators and air conditioners to deodorant and industrial solvents. Thanks Midgley's discovery, refrigerators became safe, revolutionizing medicine and food. Millions of lives would be saved thanks to chlorofluorocarbons, which allowed cold storage of drugs and vaccines and keeping food edible for longer.
Omul care a schimbat Terra mai mult decât oricare altă fiinţă: Thomas Midgley Jr.
What Midgley knew nor would know before he died was the impact that CFCs have on the ozone in the stratosphere. If ground-level ozone is a pollutant in the stratosphere it plays a vital role protecting us from ultraviolet radiation. The protective ozone layer is very thin, and CFCs are highly effective in destroying it. Researchers estimated that 500 grams of CFC can destroy 30 tons of ozone. Also, chlorofluorocarbons are highly effective in causing the greenhouse effect is 10,000 times more effective than carbon dioxide in this regard.

Unfortunately, the harmful effects of chlorofluorocarbons was identified only after several decades, they were banned in Western countries towards the end of the twentieth century. They continue to be used in developing countries where they will be restricted until 2030. Even after they banned entirely, CFCs will continue to affect the ozone layer, and will last at least a century until they disappear from the atmosphere.
Omul care a schimbat Terra mai mult decât oricare altă fiinţă: Thomas Midgley Jr.
The strange death of Mr. Midgley
Midgley died decades before the impact of CFCs to be understood, so never found out the dramatic consequences of his discoveries on the planet. As Ironically, his death was due to the same inventor spirit that characterized his life.
In 1944, at the age of 55, Thomas Midgley was îmbonăvit polio, its symptoms being aggravated by exposure to lead. Inventor paralyzed from the waist down, but she succumbed to the disease, conceiving a complicated system of pulleys, ropes and bars that allowed him to climb up and down from bed to wheelchair. This invention would bring the end: on November 2, 1944, his wife found him strangled by the strings of a complicated machinery.
At the time of his death, Thomas Midgley Jr.. was seen as a national hero in his country. U.S. country become combatants in the Second World War and the engineer finds significant benefit on the battlefield. Thanks leaded allied armies could produce iso-octane, 100 octane fuel, so that British and American planes enjoyed more power than the German, having the ability to traverse long distances and accelerate faster. "We could not win the Battle of Britain without isooctane" Geoffrey Lloyd said after the war, a former oil minister in the British government.
Few today know the name of Thomas Midgley Jr.. and that his discoveries have enabled the development of the transport industry and many other areas, transforming the world in which we live. JR McNeill, a historian specializing in environmental issues has concluded that Midgley "had more impact on the atmosphere than any other organism in Earth's history."
Midgley's influence is felt on each of us every day, whether you use your own car to move us, that we enjoy exotic fruits shipped from other continents and kept fresh with refrigerators, or we chill with the air conditioner. Blamed for the deaths of tens of thousands of people, but also praised for saving discoveries that allowed the death of a number at least as high, Thomas Midgley Jr.. will go down in history as one of the most influential people who ever lived.


 Midgley began working at General Motors in 1916. In December 1921, while working under the direction of Kettering at Dayton Research Laboratories, a subsidiary of General Motors, Midgley discovered that the addition of TEL to gasoline prevented "knocking" in internal combustion engines. The company named the substance "Ethyl", avoiding all mention of lead in reports and advertising. Oil companies and automobile manufacturers, especially General Motors which owned the patent jointly filed by Kettering and Midgley, promoted the TEL additive as a superior alternative to ethanol or ethanol-blended fuels, on which they could make very little profit.[3] In December 1922, the American Chemical Society awarded Midgley the 1923 Nichols Medal for the "Use of Anti-Knock Compounds in Motor Fuels".[4] This was the first of several major awards he earned during his career.[2]

In 1923, Midgley took a prolonged vacation to cure himself of lead poisoning. "After about a year's work in organic lead," he wrote in January 1923, "I find that my lungs have been affected and that it is necessary to drop all work and get a large supply of fresh air." He went to Miami, Florida for convalescence.[5]

In April 1923, General Motors created the General Motors Chemical Company (GMCC) to supervise the production of TEL by the DuPont company. Kettering was elected as president, and Midgley was vice president. However, after two deaths and several cases of lead poisoning at the TEL prototype plant in Dayton, Ohio, the staff at Dayton was said in 1924 to be "depressed to the point of considering giving up the whole tetraethyl lead program."[5] Over the course of the next year, eight more people would die at DuPont's Deepwater, New Jersey plant.[5]

In 1924, dissatisfied with the speed of DuPont's TEL production using their "bromide process", General Motors and Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (now known as ExxonMobil) created the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation to produce and market TEL. Ethyl Corporation built a new chemical plant using a high-temperature ethyl chloride process at the Bayway Refinery in New Jersey.[5] Within the first two months of its operation however, the new plant was plagued by more cases of lead poisoning, hallucinations, insanity, and then five deaths in quick succession.

On October 30, 1924, Midgley participated in a press conference to demonstrate the apparent safety of TEL. In this demonstration, he poured TEL over his hands, then placed a bottle of the chemical under his nose and inhaled its vapor for sixty seconds, declaring that he could do this every day without succumbing to any problems whatsoever.[3][6] However, the State of New Jersey ordered the Bayway plant to be closed a few days later, and Jersey Standard was forbidden to manufacture TEL there again without state permission. Midgley himself was careful to avoid mentioning to the press that he required nearly a year to recover from the lead poisoning brought on by his demonstration at the press conference.[citation needed] According to Deborah Blum in The Poisoner's Handbook (p. 123), Midgley sought treatment for lead poisoning in Europe a few months after his demonstration at the press conference. Midgley was relieved of his position as vice president of GMCC in April 1925, reportedly due to his inexperience in organizational matters, but he remained an employee of General Motors











Omul care a schimbat Terra mai mult decât oricare altă fiinţă: Thomas Midgley Jr.

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