Edgar Fahs Smith

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Edgar Fahs Smith (May 23, 1854 – May 3, 1928) was an American scientist who is best known today for his interests in the history of chemistry. He accumulated a large collection of pictures, books, and papers related to the history of chemistry, and which today forms the nucleus of the Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Collection at the University of Pennsylvania. He served as provost of the University, 1911-20.

Life and work[edit]

Smith in 1878

Edgar Fahs Smith was born in York, Pennsylvania and earned his college degree at Pennsylvania College at Gettysburg (now Gettysburg College) in 1874. He received his Ph.D. under Friedrich Wöhler at the University of Göttingen in 1876. Smith then returned to the United States and, in time, became associated with the University of Pennsylvania, as a professor of chemistry (1888-1911), as vice-provost (1899-1911) and then as provost (1911-1920). Smith's scientific research covered the fields of electrochemistry, the determination of atomic weights, and the rare-earth elements.

Smith was a co-founder of the American Chemical Society's History of Chemistry division. He served three times as president of the American Chemical Society and was president of the American Philosophical Society (1902–1908) and the History of Science Society (1928). In 1898 Smith was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.[1]

He was awarded the Priestley Medal in 1926.

Smith died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1928.[2]


  • Electro-Chemical Analysis (1890; revised 1894, 1902, 1918)
  • Chemistry of the Carbon Compounds (2 vols., 3d ed. 1900)
  • Experiments Arranged for Students in General Chemistry (with H. F. Keller, 4th ed. 1900)
  • Theories of Chemistry (1913)
  • Chemistry in America (1914)
  • Atomic Weights (1915)
  • The Life of Robert Hare (1917)
  • James Woodhouse, a pioneer in chemistry, 1770-1809 (1918) At archive.org.
  • Chemistry in Old Philadelphia (1918)
  • James Cutbush (1919)
  • Priestley in America (1920)

He translated Victor von Richter's A Text-book of Inorganic Chemistry (3d ed., 1900).


  1. ^ Browne, C. A. (1928). "Dr. Edgar Fahs Smith". Journal of Chemical Education 5 (6): 656–663. Bibcode:1928JChEd...5..656B. doi:10.1021/ed005p656. 
  2. ^ Taggart, Walter T. (1932). "Edgar Fahs Smith". Journal of Chemical Education 9: 613–619. doi:10.1021/ed009p612. 


External links[edit]