ACS President: J. Lawrence Smith (1818 – 1883)

Served as President: 1877

Did arithmetic at age 4 even before he could read, algebra at 8, calculus at 13

Sold his extensive, world-wide meteorite collection to Harvard University just before his death; wife used funds to establish the Smith Medal and Award


  • Doctorate, 1840, University of South Carolina, Medicine
  • Post-doctoral studies in France and Germany in medicine, chemistry and geology with Dumas, Liebig, etc

Career Highlights:

  • Professor of medical chemistry and toxicology, University of Louisville (KY), 1854-66
  • Private research in home lab, Louisville, 1866-83
  • Specialized in analytical and mineralogical chemistry, and toxicology

Notable Accomplishments:

Developed the potassium chromate test for barium and the J. Lawrence Smith method of analysis of silicates for alkali metals, 1853 (tests which remained the best analytical tools for approximately a hundred years). Made a thorough study of Turkish mineral resources, 1846-50

Collected and studied meteorites from all over the world

Major Awards and Honors:

  • Elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, 1872
  • Elected member of Academy of Sciences of the Institut de France, 1879
  • Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur
  • Chevalier of the Imperial Order of St. Stanislaus of Russia

Service to Science:

  • President, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1874
  • Member, Chemical Society of Berlin
  • Member, Chemical Society of London
  • Member, Chemical Society of Paris
  • Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Member, American Philosophical Society
  • Member, American Bureau of Mines

Did You Know

. . . that Smith became an expert in determining the needed minerals for plant growth?

. . . that because of his expertise, Smith went to Turkey in 1874 to teach their farmers how to grow cotton?

Former ACS President J. Lawrence Smith