Hamilton Young Castner

Hamilton Young Castner (1858-1899) was a scientist, engineer and industrialist who changed the world in several respects. He is best known as a pioneer in the field of industrial electrochemistry.

Castner was born in New York City, and studied at Brooklyn Polytechnic and at the School of Mines, Columbia University. He then set up as a consultant and was involved in many startling innovations, including those in the battle against cholera.

A Founder Member of SCI, Castner moved from the USA to the UK to gain financial backing through his SCI connections. He had created an enterprise in Old Bury near Birmingham to supply the Weber Crown Metal Company with sodium for the manufacture of aluminium - then a very expensive metal - by reduction of aluminium chloride.

Eventually he settled in Cheshire, where he established an enterprise that later formed a significant part of ICI (then, Imperial Chemical Industries) on its foundation.

He discovered a better process for caustic soda manufacture, resulting in the now world-famous mercury cell for the electrolysis of brine. His process was patented in 1892 and was soon established in many parts of the world, making full use of his SCI connections. In 1897, with the help of Ludwig Mond, he set up the Castner-Kellner Alkali Company with Karl Kellner of Austria, who had been following a parallel research path.

Despite his remarkable ingenuity and commercial success, Castner is remembered as an unassuming man who sadly died at the young age of 41 from tuberculosis.

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