Thomas Midgley (1889-1944)

American chemist and inventor. Born on 18 May 1889 in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. In 1911 Midgley graduated from Cornell University with a degree in mechanical engineering.

In 1916 he joined the research department of Dayton Engineering Laboratories, Ohio, owned by Charles Kettering. During World War I Midgley worked with Kettering to develop the first cruise missile. Whilst working at Dayton, for Dayton Engineering Laboratories' client General Motors, Midgley made one of his most famous inventions - tetra-ethyl leaded gasoline, which prevented 'knocking' in internal combustion engines, revolutionising the automobile and air travel industries.

In 1923 Midgley became Vice-President of the Ethyl Corporation, and by 1928 he was also running the research department of General Motors, of which Frigidaire, the leading refrigeration company, was a part. Midgley went on to discover dichloroflouromethane, the first of the chloro-flourocarbon (CFC) compounds, trademarked as 'Freons', a safe alternative which replaced the toxic and flammable substances previously used in refrigerators.

In 1933 he became Director of the Ethyl-Dow Chemical Company. In 1940 Midgley contracted polio, which paralysed him. He invented a harness for getting out of bed, which was to be the cause of his death by accidental strangulation. He died in Worthington, Ohio, on 2 November 1944.