Burgess, Charles Frederick 1873 - 1945 | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Burgess, Charles Frederick 1873 - 1945

Burgess, Charles Frederick 1873 - 1945 | Wisconsin Historical Society

professor, chemical engineer, inventor, industrialist, b. Oshkosh. He graduated from the Univ. of Wisconsin (B.E., 1895; E.E., 1898). He taught chemical engineering at the Univ. of Wisconsin (1895-1913), serving as professor of applied electrochemistry and head of the chemical engineering department (1905-1913). In 1910 Burgess was one of the incorporators of the Northern Chemical Engineering Laboratories, an industrial research organization, and in 1913 resigned from the university to devote his time to the new enterprise. In 1915 the firm was renamed C. F. Burgess Laboratories, and became the parent firm for various Burgess enterprises, including the Burgess Battery Company, founded in Madison in 1917. A pioneer in the development of electrochemical engineering, Burgess invented a process for the electrolytic purification of iron and various iron alloys, succeeded in developing a basic process for manufacturing electrolytic iron, demonstrated the suitability of iron alloys for use as permanent magnets and heating elements, and did pioneer work in the improvement of dry-cell batteries. In 1926 Burgess became a resident of Florida, and due to his dissatisfaction with Wisconsin tax laws, began to move the major portion of his enterprises to other states. In 1926 the Burgess Battery Company was moved to Freeport, Ill., and the Burgess Laboratories were reincorporated under the more favorable laws of Delaware. Eventually, the Burgess enterprises grew to be among the largest of their kind in the nation. He retained his connections with various friends and enterprises in Wisconsin and was noted for his encouragement of applied and pure research in the electrochemical field. A. McQueen, Romance in Research; Life of C. F. Burgess (Pittsburgh, 1951); Who Was Who in Amer. (1950); M. M. Quaife, Wis. (4 vols., Chicago, 1924).

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[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]