ACS President: Willis R. Whitney (1868-1958)

Served as President: 1909

Considered one of the fathers of industrial research

To him no real experiment was useless and he liked the word “serendipity” which he defined as the art of profiting from unexpected discovery.


  • Ph. D., 1896, University of Leipzig

Career Highlights:

  • 1900 – 1928, General Electric Company, Director of the Research Laboratory
  • 1928 – 1932, General Electric Company, Vice President in charge of Research
  • 1932 – 1945, General Electric Company, honorary vice-president of company

Notable Accomplishments:

  • Research topics included solubility, colloid suspensions, corrosion of iron

Major Awards and Honors:

  • President, American Electrochemical Society, 1912

Service to Science:

Did you know

. . . that the first research laboratory for General Electric Co started in a barn, but when the barn burned shortly afterward the research operation was moved to a small building in the Schenectady Works?

. . . that before and after retirement he had many hobbies, all of which involved some sort of experimentation, including Indian arrowheads, the growing of corn under different conditions, and turtles ?