William Meriam Burton
Born November 17, 1865 - Died December 29, 1954

"Ninety years ago, in an old farmhouse overlooking Lake Michigan, Burton - a chemist with Standard Oil - figured out that the new contraption called the automobile was about to create a huge demand for petroleum products. Recognizing that he had to squeeze more power from every molecule of petroleum, he developed the first commercially successful process for cracking crude oil into gasoline, a process that more than doubled the potential yield of gasoline from crude oil. This helped paved(sic) the way for the automobile era, and demonstrated the power of science to change the rules that govern our world."
  -- U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Rich Rominger

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Burton received his preliminary education at public schools in his hometown and graduated Western Reserve University with a B.A. in 1886. He did his graduate work in chemistry at Johns Hopkins University and received a Ph.D. in 1889. Burton went to work for Standard Oil in Cleveland as a chemist and in 1890 transferred to Standard Oil of Indiana. There he later served as assistant superintendent and in 1895 became superintendent of the refinery. He was elected a director of the company in 1911, vice president in 1915, and president in 1918. He continued as president until he retired in 1927. Burton demonstrated the value of laboratory research and testing, and the cracking process he developed more than doubled the potential yield of gasoline from crude oil. In 15 years, his process saved over one billion barrels of crude, and made Americans' fascination with the posession of automobiles a feasible reality.


Website: National Inventors Hall of Fame "William Meriam Burton" (http://www.invent.org/book/book-text/18.html)

Website: USDA press release "What Next From The Federal Government?" August 31, 2000 (http://www.usda.gov/news/releases/2000/08/0289.htm)