name = Sir Frederick Abel, Bt
caption = Frederick Abel
17 July 1827
6 September 1902
nationality = English
Royal College of Chemistry
A. W. von Hofmann
London, Abel studied chemistry for six years under A. W. von Hofmannat the Royal College of Chemistry, then became professor of chemistry at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwichin 1851, and three years later was appointed chemist to the War Department and chemical referee to the government. During his tenure of this office, which lasted until 1888, he carried out a large amount of work in connection with the chemistry of explosives. One of the most important of his investigations had to do with the manufacture of guncotton, and he developed a process, consisting essentially of reducing the nitrated cotton to fine pulp, which enabled it to be safely manufactured and at the same time yielded the product in a form that increased its usefulness.
This work to an important extent prepared the way for the "
smokeless powders" which came into general use towards the end of the 19th century; cordite, the type adopted by the British government in 1891, was invented jointly by him and Sir James Dewar. He and Dewar were unsuccessfully sued by Alfred Nobelover infringement of Nobel's patentfor a similar explosive called ballistite, the case finally being resolved in the House of Lordsin 1895. He also extensively researched the behaviour of black powderwhen ignited, with the Scottish physicistSir Andrew Noble.
At the request of the
British government, he devised the Abel test, a means of determining the flash pointof petroleumproducts. His first instrument, the open-test apparatus, was specified in an Act of Parliamentin 1868 for officially specifying petroleumproducts. It was superseded in August 1879 by the much more reliable Abel close-test instrument.
Under the leadership of Sir Frederick Abel, first, Guncotton was developed at
Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills, patented in 1865, then, the propellant Cordite, patented in 1889.
electricityAbel studied the construction of electrical fuses and other applications of electricity to warlike purposes, and his work on problems of steelmanufacture won him in 1897 the Bessemer medalof the Iron and Steel Institute, of which from 1891 to 1893 he was president. He was president of the Institution of Electrical Engineers(then the Society of Telegraph Engineers) in 1877. He became a member of the Royal Societyin 1860, and received a royal medal in 1887. He took an important part in the work of the Inventions Exhibition (London) in 1885, and in 1887 became organizing secretary and first director of the Imperial Institute, a position he held till his death in 1902. He was knighted in 1891, and created a baronetin 1893.
He is buried in
Nunhead Cemetery, one of London's Magnificent Seven cemeteries established in the early 19th century.
* "Handbook of Chemistry" (with C. L. Bloxam)
* "Modern History of Gunpowder" (1866)
* "Gun-cotton" (1866)
* "On Explosive Agents" (1872)
* "Researches in Explosives" (1875)
* "Electricity applied to Explosive Purposes" (1898)
He also wrote several important articles in the ninth edition of the
last = Chrimes
first = Mike
contribution = Abel, Sir Frederick Augustus
year = 2008
A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers
volume = 2
pages = 2
place = London
publisher = Thomas Telford
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