Willson, Thomas Leopold

Thomas Leopold Willson, "Carbide," inventor (b 1860; d at New York C 20 Dec 1915). Propelled by curiosity, Willson was a chronic inventor gifted in both recognizing the potential of his discoveries and funding their development. He obtained over 70 patents in Canada. The earliest concern electric dynamos and their application in ALUMINUM production and domestic lighting. He moved to the US, where he discovered a process for the production of bulk calcium carbide and acetylene gas in 1892. Willson then returned to Canada to participate in carbide concerns and to promote early hydroelectric development. He also patented several marine devices using acetylene. Finally, intrigued with triple phosphates and their fertilizer and paper product potential, "Carbide" mortgaged his assets to American J.B. Duke to obtain development capital. He lost the gamble, and then died. Willson's carbide discovery laid a basis for development of the electrochemical industry.