Edith M. Flanigen

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Edith Marie Flanigen
Born Edith Marie Flanigen
(1929-04-28) 28 April 1929 (age 85)
Buffalo, New York, United States
Nationality United States
Fields Chemistry
Institutions Union Carbide, UOP
Alma mater D'Youville College
Known for
Notable awards

Edith Marie Flanigen (born January 28, 1929, Buffalo, New York) is an American chemist, known for her work on synthesis of emeralds, and later zeolites for molecular sieves at Union Carbide. She was the first female recipient of the Perkin Medal in 1992.

Early years[edit]

Edith Marie Flanigen was born January 28, 1929, Buffalo, New York. She and her two sisters, Joan and Jane, were introduced to chemistry by their high school teacher, Sister St. Mary. Joan, Edith, and Jane all went on to study chemistry at D'Youville College under Dorothea Fitzgerald, who was responsible for all chemistry courses.[1] Edith Flanigen graduated class president and valedictorian.[2]

Joan and Edith both went on to receive master's degrees in chemistry at Syracuse University.[1] Flanigen received an M.S. in inorganic physical chemistry in 1952.[2]

Career[edit]

In 1952, Edith Flanigen went into the Union Carbide company.[3] Her job at first was the identification, purification and extraction of different silicone polymers. In 1956, she moved to the molecular sieves group.[2] In 1973, she was the first woman at Union Carbide to be named corporate research fellow, and in 1986, senior corporate research fellow. She was moved to UOP (a joint venture between Union Carbide and Allied Signal) in 1988, where she was named senior research fellow. Flanigen was promoted to UOP Fellow in 1991. Edith Flanigen retired from UOP 1994.[3] Following her career at UOP, and through at least 2004, Edith Flanigen remained active professionally, including as a consultant with UOP.[4]

In her 42 year career associated with Union Carbide, Edith Flanigen invented more than 200 different synthetic substances,[2] authored or co-authored over 36 publications, and was awarded at least 109 patents.[5]

Chemistry[edit]

In 1956 Flanigen began working on molecular sieves.[2] Molecular sieves are crystal compounds with molecular sized pores that can filter or separate very complex substances. Edith Flanigen is best known as the inventor of zeolite Y, a specific molecular sieve. Zeolite Y was a certain type of molecular sieve that could refine petroleum. Zeolite Y surpassed Zeolite X before it. When refining “crude oil”, or petroleum, it must be separated into all of its different parts, or fractions. Gasoline is one of the many fractions that come from refining petroleum. Flanigen’s zeolites are used as catalysts, or a substance that enhances chemical reactions. Zeolite Y is a catalyst that enhances the amount of gasoline fractioned from petroleum, making refining petroleum safer and more productive.[6]

In addition to her work on molecular sieves, Flanigen also co-invented a synthetic emerald,[7] which Union Carbide produced and sold for many years. The emeralds were used mainly in masers (predecessors to lasers) and were even used in jewelry for a time, in a line marketed as the “Quintessa Collection.”[8]

Honors and Awards[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]