Bevan, Edward John

Bevan, Edward John
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b. 11 December 1856 Birkenhead, England
d. 17 October 1921 London, England
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English co-inventor of the " viscose rayon " process for making artificial silk.
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Bevan began his working life as a chemist in a soap works at Runcorn, but later studied chemistry at Owens College, Manchester. It was there that he met and formed a friendship with C.F. Cross, with whom he started to work on cellulose. Bevan moved to a paper mill in Scotland but then went south to London, where he and Cross set up a partnership in 1885 as consulting and analytical chemists. Their work was mainly concerned with the industrial utilization of cellulose, and with the problems of the paper and jute industries. Their joint publication, A Text-book of Paper-making, which first appeared in 1888 and went into several editions, became the standard reference and textbook on the subject. The book has a long introductory chapter on cellulose.
In 1892 Cross, Bevan and Clayton Beadle discovered viscose, or sodium cellulose xanthate, and took out the patent which was to be the foundation of the "viscose rayon" industry. They had their own laboratory at Station Avenue, Kew Gardens, where they carried out much work that eventually resulted in viscose: cellulose, usually in the form of wood pulp, was treated first with caustic soda and then with carbon disulphide to form the xanthate, which was then dissolved in a solution of dilute caustic soda to produce a viscous liquid. After being aged, the viscose was extruded through fine holes in a spinneret and coagulated in a dilute acid to regenerate the cellulose as spinnable fibres. At first there was no suggestion of spinning it into fibre, but the hope was to use it for filaments in incandescent electric light bulbs. The sheen on the fibres suggested their possible use in textiles and the term "artificial silk" was later introduced. Cross and Bevan also discovered the acetate "Celanese", which was cellulose triacetate dissolved in acetone and spun in air, but both inventions needed much development before they could be produced commercially.
In 1892 Bevan turned from cellulose to food and drugs and left the partnership to become Public Analyst to Middlesex County Council, a post he held until his death, although in 1895 he and Cross published their important work Cellulose. He was prominent in the affairs of the Society of Public Analysts and became one of its officials.
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Bibliography
1888, with C.F.Cross, A Text-book of Papermaking.
1892, with C.F.Cross and C.Beadle, British patent no. 8,700 (viscose). 1895, with C.F.Cross, Cellulose.
Further Reading
Obituary, 1921, Journal of the Chemical Society.
Obituary, 1921, Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry.
Edwin J.Beer, 1962–3, "The birth of viscose rayon", Transactions of the Newcomen Society 35 (an account of the problems of developing viscose rayon; Beer worked under Cross in the Kew laboratories).
RLH

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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