Carl von Linde
This scientist developed a way to extract oxygen from the air, making it available to hospitals and industries and for use as rocket fuel.
The discovery of oxygen and investigation of its role in chemical reactions was of crucial importance in changing the science of chemistry (see Joseph Priestley and Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier). Initially, however, the discovery had little impact outside the laboratory, since oxygen could be produced only in the lab and in limited quantities, by chemical or electrolytic means. It was the achievement of Carl von Linde (1842–1934) in 1902 to take oxygen from the air itself, and he was soon extracting it in quantities approaching one thousand cubic feet per hour. Oxygen became a common commodity that was supplied to hospitals and industries and was later used in rocket fuel, but this was not the German engineer’s first important contribution.
One company formed to use Linde’s later patents was the Linde Air Products Company, founded in Cleveland in 1907. In 1917 Linde Air Products joined with four other companies that produced acetylene, among other products, to form Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation. In 1992, Linde Air again became an independent company—Praxair.
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Excerpted with permission, Chemical Heritage Foundation