Charles Allen Thomas
Charles Allen Thomas (February 15, 1900 – March 29, 1982) was a noted American chemist and businessman, and an important figure in the Manhattan Project.
Thomas was born on a farm in Scott County, Kentucky, the son of Charles Allen and Frances Carrick Thomas. He received his BA (1920) from Transylvania College, an MA (1924) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an honorary D.Sc. (1933) from Transylvania College. He was first employed as a General Motors research chemist from 1923 to 1924, helping to create the tetraethyllead long used in motor fuels, then left GM for Ethyl Corporation, a joint venture between GM and Esso to make and sell tetraethyllead gasoline additives, where he worked from 1924 to 1926.:340-341. In 1926 he co-founded Thomas & Hochwalt Laboratories in Dayton, Ohio with Dr. Carroll A. ("Ted") Hochwalt, who had recruited him to GM,:340-341 and he worked there until 1936, when Monsanto Company acquired the company and made it into Monsanto's Central Research Department.:341 He spent the rest of his career at Monsanto until his retirement in 1970, during which time he served as President (1951–60) and Chairman of the Board (1960–65).
In 1943, Thomas was called to a meeting in Washington DC with Brig. Gen. Leslie Groves, commander of the Manhattan Project, and with James Conant, president of Harvard University and chairman of the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC). They urged Thomas to become co-director at Los Alamos with Robert Oppenheimer, but Thomas was reluctant to leave Dayton and Monsanto. Thomas joined the NDRC, and Monsanto's Central Research Department began to conduct research for the Manhattan Project under contract from the US government.:vii
From 1943 to 1945, he coordinated Manhattan Project work on plutonium purification and production and, as part of the Manhattan Project's Dayton Project (conducted on the estate of his wife's family), also he coordinated development of techniques to industrially refine polonium for use with beryllium in the triggers of atomic weapons. In 1946 Dean Acheson appointed him to serve with Robert Oppenheimer, David Lilienthal, and others to appraise international atomic inspection, culminating in the Acheson–Lilienthal Report.:343 In 1951 President Harry Truman appointed Thomas to an eleven-man committee of prominent scientists to advise on defense planning.:344 In 1953 he was appointed as a consultant to the National Security Council, and also served as U.S. Representative to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission.:344
Thomas was elected to the National Academy of Sciences at age forty-eight and was one of the founding members of the National Academy of Engineering. He was also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In addition, he received over 100 patents, as well as the Medal for Merit from the U.S. President (1946), the Industrial Research Institute (IRI) Medal (1947), the American Institute of Chemists Gold Medal (1948), the Missouri Award for Distinguished Service in Engineering (1952), the Society of Chemical Industries Perkin Medal (1953), the American Chemical Society Priestley Medal (1955), the Order of Leopold (Belgium) (1962), the Societe de Chimie Industrielle Palladium Medal (1963), and the American Academy of Achievement Gold Plate Award (1965), the St. Louis Globe-Democrat Man of the Year award (1966). His papers are collected at Washington University in St. Louis.
- David Bird for the New York Times. March 31, 1982 "Charles Thomas, Ex-Chairman of Monsanto" (obituary)
- Ralph Landau, "Charles Allen Thomas," Memorial Tributes, vol. 2, National Academy of Engineering
- Dayton Daily News. September 18, 1983 Building the Bomb in Oakwood
- Harvey V. Moyer, ed., Polonium. TID-5221, Atomic Energy Commission U.S.A., July 1956
- DeBrosse, Jim (2004-12-05). "The Dayton Project". Dayton Daily News. p. A1.
- "Founding members of the National Academy of Engineering". National Academy of Engineering. Retrieved October 21, 2012.