Paul Louis Touissant Heroult Biography (1863-1914)


Born on April 10, 1863, in Thury-Harcourt, Calvaedos, France, Paul-Louis-Touissant Heroult was the son of a tanner. He was influenced early in life by thewritings of Henri Etienne Sainte-Claire DeVille (1818-1881) on the process of producing aluminum by sodium reduction from aluminum chloride. As a studentHeroult began experiments in producing aluminum through electrolysis using adynamo from his father's tanning business to generate a continuous electriccurrent. In April 1886 he succeeded in making small amounts of aluminum withalumina (an oxide of aluminum) dissolved in baths of fused salt. A patent wasgranted to Heroult that same year, although American metallurgist Charles Martin Hall simultaneously made the same discovery. The minor difference was that the carbon anodes in Heroult's process were larger and less numerous thanin Hall's technique. With the aid of French, German, and Swiss interests, Heroult was able to spread the use of his technique for aluminum production throughout Europe. However, Hall had the upper hand commercially since he had pursued the business aspect of his discovery more vigorously. A 15-year legal dispute between the two metallurgists ended in a compromise and an eventual friendship. Heroult also became known for his work in the development of electric furnaces for the production of steel. He died off the cost of Antibes on May 9, 1914.

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