Weldon, Walter

SUBJECT AREA: Chemical technology
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b. 31 October 1832 Loughborough, England
d. 20 September 1885 Burstow, Surrey, England
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English industrial chemist.
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It was intended that Weldon should enter his father's factory in Loughborough, but he decided instead to turn to journalism, which he pursued with varying success in London. His Weldon's Register of Facts and Occurrences in Literature, Science, and Art ran for only four years, from 1860 to 1864, but the fashion magazine Weldon's Journal, which he published with his wife, was more successful. Meanwhile Weldon formed an interest in chemistry, although he had no formal training in that subject. He devoted himself to solving one of the great problems of industrial chemistry at that time. The Leblanc process for the manufacture of soda produced large quantities of hydrochloric acid in gas form. By this time, this by-product was being converted, by oxidation with manganese dioxide, to chlorine, which was much used in the textile and paper industries as a bleaching agent. The manganese ended up as manganese chloride, from which it was difficult to convert back to the oxide, for reuse in treating the hydrochloric acid, and it was an expensive substance. Weldon visited the St Helens district of Lancashire, an important centre for the manufacture of soda, to work on the problem. During the three years from 1866 to 1869, he took out six patents for the regeneration of manganese dioxide by treating the manganese chloride with milk of lime and blowing air through it. The Weldon process was quickly adopted and had a notable economic effect: the price of bleaching powder came down by £6 per ton and production went up fourfold.
By the time of his death, nearly all chlorine works in the world used Weldon's process. The distinguished French chemist J.B.A.Dumas said of the process, when presenting Weldon with a gold medal, "every sheet of paper and every yard of calico has been cheapened throughout the world". Weldon played an active part in the founding of the Society of Chemical Industry.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
FRS 1882. President, Society of Chemical Industry 1883–4.
Further Reading
T.C.Barker and J.R.Harris, 1954, A Merseyside Town in the Industrial Revolution: St Helens, 1750–1900, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press; reprinted with corrections, 1959, London: Cass.
S.Miall, 1931, A History of the British Chemical Industry.
LRD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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