Orland Russell Sweeney
Orland Russell Sweeney was born to Robert and Elizabeth
Sweeney on March 27, 1882, in Martins Ferry, Ohio. He received his B.S. (1909)
in chemical engineering and his M.S. (1910) from The Ohio State University. He
received his Ph.D. (1916) from the University of Pennsylvania. He was Instructor
of chemistry at The Ohio State University (1910-1911) and at the University of
Pennsylvania (1911-1916). After receiving his doctoral degree, Dr. Sweeney
joined the staff at North Dakota Agricultural College (North Dakota State
University) as Associate Professor (1916-1917) of industrial chemistry.
During World War I, Dr. Sweeney entered the Trench Warfare Service of the U.S.
Army Ordnance Department as Captain. He was promoted to Major, and when the
Chemical Warfare Service was organized he was sent to the Edgewood Arsenal in
Maryland to develop and operate some of the larger chemical plants. He developed
a method for the manufacture of chloropicrin gas which he patented in the name
of the United States government.
After the war, Dr. Sweeney became Head (1919-1920) of the Chemical Engineering
Department at the University of Cincinnati. He joined the staff at Iowa State
College (University) as Professor (1920-1952) and Head (1920-1948) of the
Department of Chemical Engineering and remained there until his retirement.
Dr. Sweeney was a pioneer in the commercial utilization of agricultural waste
products. He developed methods for manufacturing paper and wallboards out of
cornstalks and corncobs, researched the production of the industrial chemical
furfural from oat hulls, and developed processing methods for soybeans. Dr.
Sweeney's research in synthetic lumber from cornstalks directly resulted in the
development of the Maizewood Products Corporation manufacturing plant at
Dubuque, Iowa. Dr. Sweeney also researched the zeolite process for softening
water, the production of Dakin's solution (a medical antiseptic), the
manufacture of chemical poison gases, and numerous other topics of interest. His
research and inventions resulted in over 300 patents which he held or co-held.
Dr. Sweeney served on several professional organizations and governmental
boards. He was Chairman of the Greater Iowa Commission and during World War II
he served as consultant to the chemical branch of the War Production Board in
Washington, D.C. He was a member of the American Chemical Society, Iowa
Engineering Society, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.
Dr. Sweeney married Louella Dubois Smith on October 25, 1919. Together they had
two children, Elizabeth and Jacqueline. Dr. Sweeney died on April 21, 1958, and
is buried at Martin's Ferry, Ohio.