Silliman, Benjamin, Jr.

Silliman, Benjamin, Jr.

(1816–85) chemist, geologist; born in New Haven, Conn. Succeeding his father as professor of chemistry at Yale (1853–70), he was an editor of the American Journal of Science and the author of several textbooks. He is best known for his chemical analysis of rock oil from central Pennsylvania (1855), effectively launching the modern petroleum industry. He revealed the oil to be a mixture of hydrocarbons that could be separated into various distillations; he explained how to prepare and purify many of the "fractions," and suggested uses for several such as kerosene, paraffin, various lubricants, and an illuminating gas. One fraction, for which he could suggest no purpose at the time, was gasoline.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.