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Walter Albert Patrick papers

Identifier: MS-0113

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Scope and Contents

The collection's research strength lies in its documentation of two aspects of twentieth century science: commercial applications of scientific discoveries, and the use of science to solve problems created by science. Both points are covered by Patrick's work with silica gel. Because silica gel has so many uses, a private company, the Silica Gel Company of Baltimore, was formed to develop commercial uses of the material. The company later became a division of the Davison Chemical Company. Patrick served as a consultant while continuing to teach at Hopkins. Research on silica gel is one of the primary topics of the research/writings series. A typescript and printed copy of Patrick's dissertation is in series 2, but there are seven drafts of articles on silica gel in this series. It is not clear whether these are by Patrick or rather results of work done in the Davison Lab under his supervision. Patrick's lab notes are not well-represented in this collection except for his studies in Germany in series 2. The rest of the notes consist of calculations and fragmented commentary. The correspondence series documents Patrick's attempts to patent and market other inventions. The material is arranged chronologically and the bulk is from Baltimore and Washington, D. C. patent attorneys. Patrick's discoveries included a process for treating oils and oil distillates to remove impurities, a method of dehydration, and techniques for acid mine waste treatment. In 1954, Patrick entered into a contract with the Atomic Energy Commission to perform "research on methods of formation of insoluble minerals to permit fixation of long life radioactive wastes." Basically, Patrick proposed to turn the waste into solid rock. In theory, then, the decay rate would be slowed down so as not to be harmful to human life. AEC minutes, research reports and papers can be found in series 7 and in the 1950s correspondence. One of the more valuable parts of the AEC series are the papers presented to the Second Working Meeting of Fixation of Waste and Stable Solid Media, held in Idaho Falls on September 27-29, 1960.

Patrick's years in teaching are chronicled by the Johns Hopkins University and Loyola College in Maryland series. Papers turned in by Patrick's students form the bulk of each. Because few students indicated their institution on their research papers, most of the papers were filed with the Hopkins material, based on the length of his tenure there. There are also a few exam questions and handouts from Patrick's physical chemistry classes in the Johns Hopkins University series. Patrick received a large number of reprints of articles from his colleagues.


  • Creation: 1901-1968


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Collection is open for use. These files contain student records, which are further subject to FERPA restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical Note

Patrick was born in Syracuse, New York, and received his B. A. from Syracuse University. After graduation, Patrick spent two years as a research assistant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He left in 1912 to pursue Ph.D studies at the University of Goettingen. His doctoral research focused on devising a quick and cheap method of making silica gel, a desiccant, in large quantities.

After he received his doctorate, Patrick returned to the United States. His method of silica gel production allowed for its use in Allied gas masks during World War I.

In 1917, Patrick joined the Chemistry Department at The Johns Hopkins University as an associate fellow. He was appointed to the faculty in 1918, and promoted to full professor in 1925. Although he retired in 1955, Patrick continued his association with the department as an emeritus professor.

Patrick also taught courses at Loyola College in Maryland in the 1950s. He instructed the students in physical chemistry and thermodynamics. Loyola presented him with an honorary degree in 1956.

Walter A. Patrick died in 1969 after a short illness.


4.36 Cubic Feet (9 letter size document boxes, 2 legal size document boxes)

Language of Materials



Walter Albert Patrick was a chemist whose research focused on devising a quick and cheap method of making silica gel, a desiccant, in large quantities. This collection consists of research, correspondence, typescripts, student papers, and publications from 1901-1968.


The collection consists of seven series: correspondence, personal, research/writings, Johns Hopkins University, Loyola College in Maryland, Silica Gel Company/Davison Chemical Company, and the Atomic Energy Commission.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were bequeathed to the University by Dr. Patrick.

Related Materials

Additional material on the use of silica gel in petroleum cracking can be found in the W.W. Holland Papers MS.0231.

Additional information about the work of the AEC on nuclear waste disposal can be found in the Abel Wolman Papers, MS.0105, Series 7.

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Margaret N. Burri and Cynthia H. Requardt in 1988-1989.

Walter Albert Patrick papers
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA