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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 66.djvu/439

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435
TECHNICAL CHEMISTRY.

SOME PRESENT PROBLEMS IN TECHNICAL CHEMISTRY.[1]
By Professor W. H. WALKER,

MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, BOSTON, MASS.

TECHNICAL chemistry may be regarded as the performance of a chemical reaction or series of reactions on a scale sufficiently large and by a method sufficiently economical to enable the product to be sold at a profit. The problems which confront the investigators in this field of endeavor may, therefore, be divided into two classes according as they pertain to the chemical reaction involved, or to the process to be employed in carrying on this reaction. The first division is pure chemistry, even though the results of the solution be utilitarian; the second is chemical engineering. Although in the program of this congress the utilitarian side of chemistry is widely separated from the subject of general chemistry, there is in reality no dividing line between the two. It would be difficult to find an investigator in the field of pure science who does not hope, and indeed believe, that the results of his labor will at some time prove of value to humanity; may ultimately be utilitarian. On the other hand, few if any chemical manufacturers would admit that in solving their chemical problems they do not utilize the most scientific methods at their command. The research assistant is in the last analysis utilitarian; while the successful chemical engineer is preeminently scientific.

Probably in no country have the problems confronting-the chemical industries been so successfully met as in Germany; yet Germany does not excel in chemical engineers. Engineering enterprises—mechanical, civil and electrical, as well as chemical—are carried on as successfully in England and America as they are in Germany; and still the latter leads the world in her chemical manufactures. The explanation for this lies in the fact that Germany pays the greatest attention to the first class of problems, as above divided, and recognizes that pure chemistry is inseparably connected with her industries; that the application of new facts and principles follows rapidly when once these facts and principles are known. Most of the problems in technical chemistry are first considered problems in pure chemistry and studied in accordance with recognized methods of modern research by men fully trained in pure science. If these men are also chemical engineers, the


  1. An address delivered at the International Congress of Arts and Science, St. Louis, September, 1904.