Cross, Charles Frederick

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b. 11 December 1855 Brentwood, Middlesex, England
d. 15 April 1935 Hove, England
[br]
English chemist who contributed to the development of viscose rayon from cellulose.
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Cross was educated at the universities of London, Zurich and Manchester. It was at Owens College, Manchester, that Cross first met E.J. Bevan and where these two first worked together on the nature of cellulose. After gaining some industrial experience, Cross joined Bevan to set up a partnership in London as analytical and consulting chemists, specializing in the chemistry and technology of cellulose and lignin. They were at the Jodrell laboratory, Kew Gardens, for a time and then set up their own laboratory at Station Avenue, Kew Gardens. In 1888, the first edition of their joint publication A Textbook of Paper-making, appeared. It went into several editions and became the standard reference and textbook on the subject. The long introductory chapter is a discourse on cellulose.
In 1892, Cross, Bevan and Clayton Beadle took out their historic patent on the solution and regeneration of cellulose. The modern artificial-fibre industry stems from this patent. They made their discovery at New Court, Carey Street, London: wood-pulp (or another cheap form of cellulose) was dissolved in a mixture of carbon disulphide and aqueous alkali to produce sodium xanthate. After maturing, it was squirted through fine holes into dilute acid, which set the liquid to give spinnable fibres of "viscose". However, it was many years before the process became a commercial operation, partly because the use of a natural raw material such as wood involved variations in chemical content and each batch might react differently. At first it was thought that viscose might be suitable for incandescent lamp filaments, and C.H.Stearn, a collaborator with Cross, continued to investigate this possibility, but the sheen on the fibres suggested that viscose might be made into artificial silk. The original Viscose Spinning Syndicate was formed in 1894 and a place was rented at Erith in Kent. However, it was not until some skeins of artificial silk (a term to which Cross himself objected) were displayed in Paris that textile manufacturers began to take an interest in it. It was then that Courtaulds decided to investigate this new fibre, although it was not until 1904 that they bought the English patents and developed the first artificial silk that was later called "rayon". Cross was also concerned with the development of viscose films and of cellulose acetate, which became a rival to rayon in the form of "Celanese". He retained his interest in the paper industry and in publishing, in 1895 again collaborating with Bevan and publishing a book on Cellulose and other technical articles. He was a cultured man and a good musician. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1917.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
FRS 1917.
Bibliography
1888, with E.J.Bevan, A Text-book of Papermaking. 1892, British patent no. 8,700 (cellulose).
Further Reading
Obituary Notices of the Royal Society, 1935, London. Obituary, 1935, Journal of the Chemical Society 1,337. Chambers Concise Dictionary of Scientists, 1989, Cambridge.
Edwin J.Beer, 1962–3, "The birth of viscose rayon", Transactions of the Newcomen Society 35 (an account of the problems of developing viscose rayon; Beer worked under Cross in the Kew laboratories).
C.Singer (ed.), 1978, A History of Technology, Vol. VI, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
RLH

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

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