Armstrong, Edward Frankland

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Armstrong, Edward Frankland

(b. London, England, 5 September 1878; d. London, 14 December 1945)


The eldest son of Henry Edward Armstrong, a fellow of the Royal Society, Edward went to Germany in 1898 for training in organic chemistry with Claisen and in physical chemistry with van’t Hoff at the University of Berlin, where he received the Ph.D. in 1901. He conducted research with Emil Fischer, work that aroused his lifelong interest in carbohydrates. He returned to London to continue work on disaccharides, glucosides, and enzymes at Central Technical College, for which he received the first D.Sc. by research of the University of London.

In 1905 Armstrong entered the chemical industry but continued with his research; his monograph on carbohydrates—one of the first—appeared in 1910. He was intimately involved in the negotiations that resulted in the formation of Imperial Chemical Industries, Ltd., one of the largest industrial concerns in Great Britain. During World War I, he and associates solved a Problem of great wartime importance—the large-scale catalytic production of acetic acid and acetone from ethyl alcohol. This was an important applications of his extensive research on heterogeneous catalysis. During world War II, Armstrong served as scientific adviser to several important governemental agencies. At this untimely death he was principal adviser to the British delegates and a delegate to the founding conference of UNESCO. He was instrumental in ensuring the inclusion of science in the programs of this organization.

From 1928 Armstrong was a consultant to the chemical industry. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London and was active in its affairs.


Among Armstrong’s writings are The Simple Carbohydrates and Glucosides (London, 1910; 1912; 1919; 1924; 1935); a series of 13 papers, “Catalytic Actions at Solid; Surfaces,” in Prodceedings of the Royal Society (1920-1925); a paper on heterogeneous catalysis, in Proceedings of the Royal Society, 97A (1920), 259-264; Chemistry in the 20th Century (London, 1924); The Glycosides (London, 1931), written with his son Kenneth; “The Chemistry of the Carbohydrates and the Glycosides,” in Annual Review of Biochemistry, 7 (1938), 51; and Raw Materials From the Sea (Leicester, 1944), written with W. MacKenzie Miall.

A discussion of Armstrong’s career and of the significance of his research and of his lifework in industry and public service is in C. S. Gibson and T. P. Hildreth, ’Edward Frankland Armstrong,” in Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, 5 (1948), 619. This includes references to nearly 100 publications.

Conrad E. Ronneberg

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