April 30, 1847: William Ripley Nichols is born. “William Ripley Nichols (April 30, 1847 – July 14, 1886) was a noted American chemist [only 39 years old at his death]. Nichols was born in Boston, Massachusetts, graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1869, and served there as instructor and assistant professor until 1872, when he was elected professor of general chemistry, which chair he retained until his death in Hamburg, Germany. Professor Nichols was recognized as an authority on sanitation, and particularly on water purification, published numerous papers on municipal water supplies, and was active in the pioneering work of the Lawrence Experiment Station. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, of which he was Vice President in 1885, and of the German Chemical Society.”
Nichols was also a mentor to Ellen Swallow Richards at MIT. “In 1887, the laboratory, directed by Thomas Messinger Drown, conducted a study under Richards of water quality in Massachusetts for the Massachusetts State Board of Health involving over 20,000 samples, the first such study in America. Her data was used to find causes of pollution and improper sewage disposal. As a result, Massachusetts established the first water-quality standards in America and its first modern sewage treatment plant at Lowell, Massachusetts.”
Commentary: This post completes eight months of daily blogging on This Day in Water History. I started the process to spread the word about water history to those who might be interested, and instead, I ended up teaching myself more than I could have imagined about the field of sanitary engineering and water history in general. Many thanks to all of you who have joined with me on this ride into the past. Four months to go to complete my goal of 365 blog posts.