Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/O'Sullivan, Cornelius
O'SULLIVAN, CORNELIUS (1841–1907), brewers' chemist, born at Bandon, co. Cork, on 20 Dec. 1841, was son of James O'Sullivan, a merchant of that town, by his wife Elizabeth Morgan. His only surviving brother, James O'Sullivan, became head of the chemical laboratory of Messrs. Bass, Ratcllff and Gretton, Burton-on-Trent.
Cornelius, after attending a private school in Bandon known as 'Denny Holland's' and the Cavendish school there, went to evening science classes in the town held under the auspices of the Science and Art Department, winning in September 1862 a scholarship at the Royal School of Mines, London. On the completion of the prescribed three years' course of study he joined the teaching staff of the Royal College of Chemistry, London, as a student assistant under Prof. A. W. von Hofmann, who recognised O'Sullivan's promise, and on becoming professor of chemistry at Berlin in 1865 made O'Sullivan his private assistant. A year later the professor's influence secured him the post of assistant brewer and chemist to Messrs. Bass & Co., Burton-on-Trent. In that capacity he applied his chemical knowledge and aptitude for original research to the scientific and practical issues of brewing. Ultimately he became head of the scientific and analytical staff of Messrs. Bass & Co., holding the appointment till his death.
Pasteur's researches on fermentative action gave O'Sullivan his cue in his earliest investigation. He embodied his contributions to the technology of brewing in a series of papers on physiological and applied chemistry communicated to the Chemical Society. Of these the chief are: 'On the Transformation Products of Starch' (1872 and 1879); 'On Maltose' (1876); 'On the Action of Malt Extract on Starch' (1876); 'Presence of Raffinose in Barley' (1886); 'Researches on the Gums of the Arabin Group' (1884 and 1891); Invertase: a Contribution to the History of an Enzyme' (with F. W. Tompson, 1890); and (with A. L. Stern) 'The Identity of Dextrose from Different Sources, with Special Reference to the Cupric Oxide Reducing Power' (1896). His name is especially associated with the delicate research which re-established and elucidated the distinct character of maltose, a sugar produced by the action of diastase on starch. O'Sullivan described in detail the properties of this substance, therein confirming earlier but practically forgotten observations (see Encyclo. Brit. 11th edit., art. Brewing). He was elected a fellow of the Chemical Society in 1876, served on the council 1882-5, and was awarded the Longstaff medal in 1884 for his researches on the chemistry of the carbohydrates (see remarks by W. H. Perkin, F.R.S., Anniversary Address, Chem. Soc. Trans. vol. xlv.). In 1885 he was elected F.R.S. An original member of the Institute of Chemistry, the Society of Chemical Industry, and the Institute of Brewing, he served on the council of each.
He died at his residence, 148 High Street, Burton-on-Trent, on 8 Jan. 1907, and was buried near Bandon. He married in 1871 Edithe, daughter of Joseph Nadin of Barrow Hall, near Derby, and had issue three sons (one died in early youth) and one daughter.
[Journ. Inst. Brewing, vol. xiii.; Proc. Inst. Chemistry, 1907, part ii., and Presidential Address, ibid.; Memorial Lectures, Chem. Soc., p. 592; Nature, vol. lxxv.; Analyst, vol. xxxii.; Journ. Soc. Chem. Industry, vol. xxvi.; The Times, 9 Jan. 1907; private information.]