If Dead Scientists Could Talk…

Two scientists almost a century apart have the same regrets despite their world-changing innovations

Organic Live
7 min readJun 4, 2022


“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” — Winston Churchill

Profits drive business growth — this is a universally accepted truth (and if
it isn’t it should be…I wouldn’t know, I’m a chemist). In trying to drive
growth, businesses seek any advantage that will boost efficiency and thereby
increase profits. The logic is undeniable: spend less money on the process
and charge the same for the product/service, then more money goes into your
pocket. In the early 1800s, entrepreneurs saw the burgeoning science of chemistry as the latest catalyst for boosting efficiencies and profits. Eventually, these scientist-entrepreneurs’ success would grab the attention of entire governments, which would then spawn even greater investment into
chemistry — this is exactly how Germany became a industrial and academic powerhouse in the 19th century, but that’s a whole other story.

One industry that benefitted greatly from chemistry was mining. From the
salt mines at Carthage to the coal mines of West Virginia, it is a grueling,
labor intensive process. As such, mine production was dominated by avoidance of efficiency-draining factors. Veins needed to be easily accessible, and even a profitable vein, if it ran too deep, would be abandoned in favor of a more accessible one. Any innovation that could cut down the insane amount of man-hours while making ore veins more accessible would have a drastic effect on the industry…and the world.

This situation could have been a boon for any chemist with an
entrepreneurial spirit. Unsurprisingly, one seized the opportunity. While
this chemist was wealthy and had a business background at this particular
time in history, he did not originally come from wealth. He and his father
learned about entrepreneurship in the school of hard knocks — they started
multiple failed businesses before landing on a successful one. He leveraged
his success to study chemistry, learn about 1,409 different languages, and
expand into multiple other industries and how chemistry could be used to
grow businesses within those…



Organic Live

I’m a former chemistry assistant prof that is out to prove that chemistry is both interesting and entertaining