From Industrial And Engineering Chemistry, January, 1927:
American Contemporaries: William Hoskins
The attractions of this subject are not to be resisted, and I leave for the time, all account of subordinate social values to speak of that select and sacred relation which is a kind of absolute, and which even leaves the language of love suspicious and common, so much is this purer and more divine.
A young chemist who was considering with some hesitation the possibility of going into consulting work in Chicago went to an older man in that branch of the profession for information and counsel. He got both and in such generous measure that at the end of the interview he expressed surprise and gratitude at the friendly and helpful attitude of the older man toward a potential competitor.
"Don't feel grateful to me," was the reply. "Thank William Hoskins. I'm merely passing along what he did for me when I started in years ago."
This true incident suggests the keynote to the character of him whom the Chicago chemist thinks of as "my friend William." William Hoskins is a happy example of what one man can do to motivate a group with a spirit of friendliness and cooperation. For nearly fifty years he has been a consulting chemist in Chicago, and during that time he has found ways of being helpful to so many of his professional brethren that it is the exception today to find a member of the Chicago Section who is not directly indebted to him for something of importance.
One story that is typical of many must suffice to illustrate. A discouraged young chemist many years ago sat across the table from him. He was a stranger in Chicago and without employment. There is a force of gravity at play among human beings, and this strange attraction had brought the late beloved Bill Brady, as it has brought many another seeking counsel and aid, into the genial presence of Mr. Hoskins. Brady was a graduate of Case and personable, but his quest for a position had ended only in a series of negatives, variously embellished. Here is the way Bill Brady told the story himself in after years:
He inquired if I had received any favorable replies. I told him somewhat disdainfully that the Illinois Steel Company at South Chicago had offered me a job at ten dollars a week, but that I felt after so many years of expensive education I should do better than that. Mr. Hoskins startled me by asking if I knew how they made carbon determinations at the Illinois Steel Works. I was constrained to acknowledge I did not. He then suggested that I accept the position and hold it so long as I was gaining experience. He said he suspected that between my present equipment and qualifications for the position of chief chemist at the Illinois Steel Works there was a lot of new experience. He encouraged me to believe I could win a worthy position with the company. I went right out and accepted the job and took considerable satisfaction some years later in dropping in on him, recalling our conversation, and telling him I was now chief chemist for the company.
Brady continued in this responsible position to the time of his death and often told of his first meeting with William Hoskins, much to the latter's embarrassment, for Mr. Hoskins prefers to do a good turn and then completely dismiss the matter.
A rugged gentleman entered the office of Mariner and Hoskins (a firm name which cherishes a life gratitude, for William Hoskins alone has for many years been the heart and head of the organization) and cautiously laid a parcel on the table. It proved to be a sample of gold ore wrapped in a rough package. The customer asked for an appraisal of the sample.
"Is there much of this ore on your Alaskan claim?" inquired the presiding genius of the House of Mariner and Hoskins. "How did you know this ore was from Alaska?" queried the astonished stranger.
"Why, I see it is wrapped in a piece of Dawson newspaper," replied the candid and observing subject of this article.
The story recounted above indexes a direct, common sense that is native and has contributed so much to his success as one of the profession's leading consulting chemists. While never brusque, but on the contrary gentle and of fine sensibilities, there is invariably a surprise element in Mr. Hoskins' response to a situation. This comes from a mind of high natural endowments, not conventionalized in its processes by the great educational mill that gathers in our modern youths and turns them out too often comfortably and harmlessly alike. This is the supreme quality of intelligence. Wiggams says: "Intelligence is that which enables a man to live without education, while education is that which enables a man to live without intelligence." While a striking epigram, it needs elaboration to convey the whole truth, for it seems to contemplate only men who are wholly intelligent or wholly educated, whereas mixtures of education and intelligence are thinkable. However, Mr. Hoskins possessed that intelligence which proves the doctrine. He never attended college. After graduating from the Chicago High School in 1880, he received some private instruction from G. A. Mariner, a classmate of Chandler's at the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard graduating in 1854. A few months after taking up study with Mr. Mariner -- to be exact, in February, 1880 -- Mr. Hoskins became assistant to Mr. Mariner in the latter's business of consulting chemist and after Mr. Mariner's death in 1903 became sole owner of the business.
We suspect he cannot remember a time when he was not interested in scientific matters. The Third Annual Report of the Chicago Department of Public Works for 1878 contains a page plate reproduction of drawings of algae and related forms made by young Hoskins who was then only a high-school student. At fourteen he was a member of the State Microscopical Society and soon afterward became its secretary.
Mr. Hoskins helped to organize the first Chicago Chemical Society, which became the Chicago Section of the AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY on June 3, 1895. He was president of the organization in 1897. When the Chicago Chemists' Club was organized in 1919, Mr. Hoskins was its first president. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, the Electrochemical Society, the Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, the Chicago Academy of Sciences, the Illinois Academy of Science, the Western Society of Engineers, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. In all of these associations he has been a helpful force, contributing freely of his time and money in furthering their several purposes. During the war he served on the Naval Consulting Board in the capacity of expert on inventions and held a similar position on the Engineering and Inventions Board of the State of Illinois. He was also on the Advisory Board to the Bureau of Mines when that bureau had charge of chemical warfare. He is a member of the National Research Council.
Mr. Hoskins has participated in many famous patent cases and has been retained as consultant by many large manufacturers of technical products. He was retained by the Standard Oil Company in the suits involving the Burton patent, in legal controversies involving the flotation of ores, in the Haynes-Stellite patents, and many others. His professional activities have been primarily along industrial lines and a complete history of them would give an accurate picture of the growth of industrial chemistry in the Chicago region, for he has been connected with a very large percentage of Chicago chemical developments. He has, however, always conducted independent research involving his own ideas, for his is a creative mind of the inventive type. It was in his laboratory that the development of the resistance wire now universally employed for electric heating devices of various kinds was carried on, Mr. Marsh, now the general manager of the Hoskins Manufacturing Company, having been research man doing the active work. Billiard chalk, metallic arsenic, gelatin film, gasoline blowpipes, assay furnaces, chlorine recovery of gold, chemical safety paper, and luminous paints are only a few titles culled at random from the list of problems to whose successful solution he has made important contributions.
He probably has the honor of being the first chemist to establish a laboratory in a Ford truck, for in 1912 he conducted for the Association of Commerce an investigation of the atmosphere of Chicago, utilizing a movable laboratory in which it was possible to sample and test the air continuously at any desired point. The results of the investigation have been published in what has been considered a classical volume on this subject.
He has always been active in the affairs of the AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY and the local section, as well as the Chicago Chemists' Club. To the gatherings of Chicago chemists he has contributed always his bit of philosophy -- clean humor -- pleasing reminiscence -- discerning and stimulating prophecy -- above all, the word of professional help, encouragement, and admonition.
To those of the Chicago Section privileged to know him more intimately, Mr. Hoskins is the beloved patriarch, a term without chronological import, for if sprightly enthusiasm and a tireless industry betoken youth, Mr. Hoskins is still on the sunny side of life. It does reflect, however, the esteem of his colleagues and the place he has won as their counselor and friend.
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