August 30, 1895: Birth of Alvin Percy Black; 1861: Lead Poisoning

0830 AP BlackAugust 30, 1895: Birth of Alvin P. Black. “Born in Blossom, Texas, in 1895, Alvin earned a B.S. Degree at Southwestern University, completed graduate studies at Iowa State College and Harvard, and received his Doctorate Degree from the University of Iowa. During World War I, he served in the Chemical Warfare Service; following that, he joined the faculty of the University of Florida in 1920 as Assistant Professor of Chemistry. During his tenure there, Dr. Black earned national and international recognition in the field of water chemistry. He served as a consultant to numerous municipalities throughout the country since 1935.

Dr. Black joined the American Water Works Association in 1929 and served as both National Director and President. He also served as a member of the National Advisory Dental Research Council of the U.S. Public Health Service, and was appointed by the Surgeon General of the United States as one of the original members of the Advisory Committee on Coagulant Aids in water treatment. Dr. Black also served as a national consultant to the Office of Saline Water of the Department of the Interior. He is considered, today, a pioneer in the design of water treatment systems.

Dr. Black was the recipient of numerous awards and honors for his work and contributions to the development of systems and techniques in the field of water purification and distribution. He was one of the original founders, along with William B. Crow and Frederic A. Eidsness, of Black, Crow and Eidsness, which became part of CH2M HILL in 1977. He passed away on February 23, 1980, at the age of 84.”

Commentary: In 2009, I was honored to receive the A.P. Black Research Award from the American Water Works Association. Shortly after the award was announced, I received a phone call from John V. Miner who said Doc Black was a friend, mentor and second father to him. He was kind enough to place into my care a book entitled Collected Works of A.P. Black—1933-1966. The book of Doc Black’s papers was put together by Ed Singley (a colleague and friend of mine) and Ching-lin Chen, both students of Doc Black. John Miner asked that I keep the book for as long as I wanted to but then pass it on to another. The inscription on the flyleaf of the book reads: “To one of my sons, John Miner from Doc Black, his second Dad.”

August 30, 1861: New York Times headline–Fifty Prisoners in the County Jail Poisoned by Drinking Water Impregnated with Carbonate of Lead. “On Tuesday night last, about twenty of the prisoners confined in the Kings County Jail, were seized with vomiting and purging, accompanied by other symptoms, indicating that they had partaken of some deadly poison. Dr. Charles A. Van Zandt, the Jail Physician, was at once sent for by the keepers and by judicious management succeeded in saving the lives of all attacked, numbering, up to yesterday, about 50 of the inmates of the jail. When Dr. Van Zandt examined the first case, he was considerable puzzled to know in what manner the prisoners had been poisoned, but after a while he arrived at the conclusion that it must have been from the Ridgewood water, with which the jail is supplied throughout, in the common lead pipe. Fortunately he hit upon the right cause and was able to neutralize the reflects of the poison. He at once ordered the Ridgewood water to be cut off, and directed that well water — of which there is an abundance on the premises — should be used.”

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2 thoughts on “August 30, 1895: Birth of Alvin Percy Black; 1861: Lead Poisoning

  1. Jen Clancy

    Mike – great piece on Doc Black. As the first woman to receive the AP Black award (2014) I had read up on him, but the personal note about the book that is to be passed on is priceless. Jen Clancy

    Reply

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