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Biographical Memoirs: Volume 65
CHARLES ALLEN THOMAS
February 15, 1900-March 29, 1982
BY R. BYRON BIRD
CHARLES ALLEN THOMAS was elected to the National Academy of Sciences at age forty-eight and was, in addition, chosen to be one of the twenty-three Founding Members of the National Academy of Engineering when he was sixty-four1; also, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences at age sixty-seven. He was a distinguished scientist, an important figure in the Manhattan Project, a prolific inventor, a leader in the chemical industry, an outspoken and effective advocate for higher education and research, and an energetic public servant. Several articles have appeared on Dr. Thomas, which give many details of his accomplishments, and we have drawn on these sources in preparing this memorial tribute,2-9 as well as on several unpublished documents.10-18
Dr. Thomas was born in Scott County, Kentucky, the son of Charles Allen and Frances Carrick Thomas. Of his early childhood and education Dr. Thomas had this to say:
I was born and spent my early childhood on a farm—didn't see a street car, in fact, until I was seven years of age. My father, who died when I was six months old, was a minister. On the farm I had many hours of private schooling from my mother and grandmother, who were both wonderful teachers, and there became acquainted with a great many books which were in the family's possession. My family moved to Lexington, Kentucky,