Charles M. Hall
Charles Martin Hall (Residence Hall). Courtesy of Oberlin College Archives.
Charles Martin Hall was born in Thompson, Ohio, on December 6, 1863. He spent much of his youth in Oberlin, Ohio. As a child, Hall was an avid reader. After reading his father's college chemistry textbook, Hall decided to become a chemist. He constructed his own chemistry laboratory in his parents' home after he graduated from Oberlin College in 1885.
In 1886, Hall discovered a process that made aluminum easy to manufacture and, thus, feasible for commercial use. It took the chemist two years to find a company willing to utilize his discovery. In 1887, Hall introduced his manufacturing process to the Cowles Electric Smelting Company in New York. Unfortunately for Hall, the company ceased manufacturing aluminum in 1888.
Undaunted with this setback, Hall took a position with the Pittsburgh Reduction Company in Pennsylvania. This company eventually became the Aluminum Company of America and was the leading aluminum manufacture in the United States during the 1890s. Hall became vice-president of this firm in 1890. Aluminum became immensely popular in the creation of a large number of products, making Hall a very wealthy man. Aluminum was especially useful in the construction of automobiles and airplanes. Hall became a member of the board of trustees of Oberlin College in 1905. He died in Daytona Beach, Florida, on December 27, 1914. Hall left Oberlin College approximately five million dollars in his will.