national academy of sciences
A Biographical Memoir by
louis f. fieser
Any opinions expressed in this memoir are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academy of Sciences.
Biographical Memoir Copyright 1975
national aCademy of sCienCes washington d.C.
August 2, 1853-February 8, 1942 BY LOUIS F.FIESER
were placed upon the records of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University at the meeting of May 18, 1943.* "Arthur Michael, Professor of Organic Chemistry, Emeritus, died on February 8, 1942, in Orlando, Florida, in the eightyninth year of his age. Michael was born in Buffalo, New York, on August 7, 1853, the son of John and Clara (Pinner) Michael. He attended theBriggs Classical School in Buffalo. No formal classes in chemistry were held there at that time but Michael had special instruction in this subject at school from one of his teachers, and he performed the experiments by himself with great enthusiasm in a laboratory which his father had fitted up for him at home. "Thereafter, Michael had planned to go to Harvard College, but a serious illnessintervened. As a result the Michael family, in the summer of 1871, went for a long sojourn in Europe. They arrived in Berlin just in time to see the German Army, fresh from the Siege of Paris, march triumphantly down Unter den Linden. "After he had recovered from his illness and after an interval of preoccupation with art and literature, Michael sucHE FOLLOWING MINUTES * E. W. Forbes, L. F. Fieser, and A.B. Lamb, "Arthur Michael," Harvard University Gazette 38(1943):246.
ceeded, in spite of his meager chemical training, in gaining admission to the Chemical Laboratory of Professor Hofmann at the University of Berlin. A year later, Michael transferred to Heidelberg for two years of study under the renowned Bunsen, who ever remained his scientific paragon.He returned to Berlin in 1876 for two years of study, and it was then that he began the execution and publication of his remarkably long series of brilliant and important researches. Hofmann was the outstanding organic chemist of Germany and his laboratory at that time was the focal point of the world for research in organic chemistry, and there Michael became acquainted with many of the futureleaders in that field, among them Ira Remsen and our own Charles Loring Jackson. Michael concluded his student years by spending another year at the Ecole de Medecine in Paris under the great Wurtz. "In 1880, Michael returned to America, and after a short period as Assistant in the Chemical Laboratory at Tufts College, was appointed Professor of Chemistry at that institution. He was able to devotepractically all of his time to research and with the aid of private assistants and graduate students prosecuted his investigations with great energy and success. Among the graduate students who came to study with him at that time was Miss Helen Abbott of Philadelphia. She and Michael were married in 1889, and after an 18 months' tour around the world, Michael accepted a position as Head of theDepartment of Chemistry at the recently established Clark University. This position soon proved most uncongenial, and after a few months he resigned and established a residence and a private laboratory on the Isle of Wight, where he pursued his researches for four years. In 1894, he resumed his professorship at Tufts College and remained there until 1907 when he became Professor Emeritus, whereuponhe established a private laboratory on his estate at Newton Center. "In 1912, Michael was appointed Professor of Organic Chemistry at Harvard. He gave no lecture courses. Atfirsthis
research students and his private assistants worked with him in his laboratory at Newton Center, but during his later years, they carried on their experimental work at the Converse...
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