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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) and an honorary D.Sc. (1933) from Transylvania College, with an intermediate MA (1924) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was first employed as a General Motors research chemist from 1923 to 1936, helping to create the tetra-ethyl lead compound long used in motor fuels, and at Thomas & Hochwalt Laboratories in Dayton, Ohio, from 1926-1936. He also served as vice-president of Dayton Synthetic Chemicals, Inc. from 1930-34, and at Carbosolve Corporation from 1931-36. After Monsanto Company acquired Thomas and Hochwalt Laboratories in 1936 (making it into Monsanto's Central Research Department), 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).

He was married to Margaret Talbott.

From 1943-1945, he coordinated Manhattan Project work on plutonium purification and production and, as part of the Manhattan Project's Dayton Project, also 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. In 1951 President Harry Truman appointed Thomas to an eleven-man committee of prominent scientists to advise on defense planning. 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.

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 Presidential Medal for Merit (1946), the Industry Research Institute 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.

References

  • Ralph Landau, "Charles Allen Thomas," Memorial Tributes, vol. 2, National Academy of Engineering, pp. 279-84.
  • David Bird, "Charles Thomas, Ex-Chairman of Monsanto" (obituary), New York Times, March 31, 1982, p. B5.
  • Washington University in St. Louis papers
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