Kipping, Frederick Stanley

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Kipping, Frederick Stanley

(b. Manchester, England, 16 August 1863; d. Criccieth, England, 1 May 1949)


Kipping became interested in chemistry through the influence of a neighbor, the district’s public analyst, who convinced Kipping’s banker father that a career in chemistry was honorable. The boy’s chemistry teacher in grammar school further whetted his appetite for the subject. He enrolled at the University of London in 1879 but actually attended Owens College in Manchester and graduated with a degree in chemistry three years later. Realizing that his position as chemist at the Manchester Gas Department held little promise of advancement, Kipping entered the university of Munich in 1886 to begin graduate work in Adolf von Baeyer’s laboratory. His work there was supervised by W. H. Perkin, Jr., who became a close friend. Kipping received his doctorate with highest honors in 1887 and was awarded a doctor of science degree in the same year from the University of London, the first person to be awarded this degree from that institution solely on the basis of research.

Kipping’s first position after graduation was that of demonstrator under Perkin at Heriot-Watt College in Edinburgh. Two years later he was promoted to assistant professor of chemistry and lecturer in agricultural chemistry. In 1890 he was appointed chief demonstrator of the chemistry department at what is now Imperial College of Science and Technology in London. In 1897, the year of his election as a fellow of the Royal Society, Kipping was appointed to the chair of chemistry at University College in Nottingham. His resignation accepted in 1936, Kipping became emeritus professor of chemistry and continued to work regularly in his laboratory until the outbreak of World War II caused him to move with his wife and daughter to the seaside town of Criccieth, where he died at the age of eighty-five. His younger son, Frederick Barry, became a well-known chemist, and his elder son a noted composer of chess problems.

Kipping’s early studies involved the preparation and properties of optically active camphor derivatives and nitrogen compounds. He then turned his attention to asymmetric organosilicon compounds and began his most important research. In his preparative reactions he discovered the value of Grignard reagent to substitute organic groups onto silicon atoms. Although his stereoisomer studies were only partially successful, Kipping did report the preparation of the forerunners of the organosilicon polymers. Turning to a detailed investigation of these condensation products, he attempted to prepare the silicon analogues of simple carbon compounds, particularly those with a double bond. The polymeric materials obtained in his endeavor to prepare the analogue of ketones were named “silicones”—the common name now given to the entire class of oxygen-containing organosilicon polymers. Although Kipping was unable to prepare any double-bonded silicon compounds, his extensive studies led to the synthesis of many silicon polymers and to a clear exposition in his fifty-odd published papers of the laboratory techniques necessary to obtain others.

Ironically, Kipping saw absolutely no practical value for the polymeric materials he had laboriously prepared, and in 1937 he lamented that “the prospect of any immediate and important advance in this section of organic chemistry does not seem to be very hopeful.” Within four years the first patents for silicon polymers had been issued, and a rapidly growing industry had been born from a marriage of Kipping’s experimental procedures and the war’s pressure on industry to develop new products.


I. Original Works. Kipping’s name was familiar to two generations of organic chemistry students as coauthor of the popular textbook Organic Chemistry, written with Perkin. The first edition appeared in London in 1894; and after Perkin’s death in 1929 Kipping himself made periodic revisions, the last of which is dated 1949. His studies on silicones account for fifty-one numbered papers (and two outside the main series) published in the Journal of the Chemical Society; the last (1944) concludes by thanking the society for publishing so much of his work. His 1937 Bakerian Lecture, from which the quote in the text was taken, was published as “Organic Derivatives of Silicon,” in Proceedings of the Royal Society,159A (1937), 139-147.

II. Secondary Literature. A detailed biographical sketch is Frederick Challenger, “Frederick Stanley Kipping,” in Eduard Farber, ed., Great Chemists (New York, 1961), pp. 1157-1179. His silicone studies are discussed in relation to later developments in Eugene Rochow, An Introduction to the Chemistry of the Silicones, 2nd ed. (New York, 1951), pp. 15-87, and in Howard W. Post, Silicones and Other Silicon Compounds (New York, 1949).

Sheldon J. Kopperl