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Thomas Willson


The Union Carbide Company grew from work begun in 1891 by Major James Morehead and Canadian inventor Thomas Willson. Their determined but unsuccessful attempts to produce aluminum in an electric furnace led instead to two discoveries -- a way to make calcium carbide and a method to produce acetylene gas from that carbide.

Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario
Inscription on a historic plaque


This house was built in 1895 by Thomas Leopold Willson, an electrical engineer who discovered the first commercial process for the production of calcium carbide, a chemical compound used in the manufacture of acetylene gas. He was born at Princeton, Ontario, and educated in Hamilton, where he performed his early experiments. The discovery which earned him his nickname was made at Spray, North Carolina in 1892. In 1896 he established a carbide works at Merritton, Ontario. After establishing a similar plant at Shawinigan, Quebec, he settled in Ottawa in 1901. His varied scientific achievements were recognized in 1909 by the University of Toronto which awarded him the first McCharles Prize. source

©Mary Bellis

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