Harvey W. Wiley

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Harvey Washington Wiley (October 18, 1844 - June 30, 1930) was a noted chemist best known for his leadership in the passage of the landmark Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and his subsequent work at the Good Housekeeping Institute laboratories. He was the first commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration. He was awarded the Elliott Cresson Medal of The Franklin Institute in 1910.


Early life and career

Wiley was born on October 18, 1844 in a log farmhouse near Kent, in Jefferson County, Indiana, the son of a farmer. He enrolled in nearby Hanover College in 1863 and studied for about one year until patriotism inspired him to enlist with the Union Army in 1864 as a corporal in Company I of the 137th Regiment Indiana Volunteers during the American Civil War. He returned to Hanover in 1865 where he majored in the humanities and was a top graduate (A.B.) in 1867. He received an A.M. there in 1870. Wiley studied at Indiana Medical College where he received his M.D. in 1871. He was professor of Greek and Latin at Butler College, Indianapolis, 1868-70.[1]

After he graduated, Wiley accepted a position teaching chemistry at the medical college, where he taught Indiana's first laboratory course in chemistry beginning in 1873. Following a brief interlude at Harvard University, where he was awarded a B.S. degree in 1873 after only a few months of intense effort, he accepted a faculty position in chemistry at the newly opened Purdue University in 1874. He was also appointed state chemist of Indiana.

In 1878, Wiley travelled overseas where he attended the lectures of August Wilhelm von Hofmann — the celebrated German discoverer of several organic tar derivatives, including aniline. While in Germany, Wiley was elected to the prestigious German Chemical Society founded by Hofmann. Wiley spent most of his time in the Imperial Food Laboratory in Bismarck working with Eugene Sell, mastering the use of the polariscope and studying sugar chemistry. Upon his return to Purdue, Wiley was asked by the Indiana State Board of Health to analyze the sugars and syrups on sale in the state to detect any adulteration. He spent his last years at Purdue studying sorghum culture and sugar chemistry, hoping, as did others, to help the United States develop a strong domestic sugar industry. His first published paper in 1881 discussed the adulteration of sugar with glucose.

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