Abraham Gesner Geochemistry and Geochronology

Physician, geologist, chemist, inventor, professor, author: Invented kerosene oil and founded the modern petroleum industry

The Story

Gesner became a medical student in London, England, and graduated as a physician and surgeon. He then became the first government geologist in a British colony. He studied, described and mapped the distribution of rock formations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Beginning about 1846 he developed experiments for distilling “coal oil” from solid hydrocarbons. Gesner coined the name kerosene for the lamp oil he perfected by 1853, and patented his processes in 1854. His other inventions include a wood preservative, a process of asphalt paving for highways, briquettes made from compressed coal dust, and a machine for insulating electric wire. After overseeing the setup of a factory in USA, he sold his patents in 1863 and returned to Halifax and a professorship at Dalhousie University.

Sources: The Canadian Encyclopedia 1988

The Person

May 2, 1797
Cornwallis, NS
Date of Death
April 29, 1864
Place of Death
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Last Updated
October 15, 2001

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