Hamilton Cady was born May 2, 1874, near Council Grove, Kansas. Cady attended Carleton College in Minnesota and then went to the University of Kansas where he obtained his Ph.D. in 1903. Cady is best known for his involvement in the discovery of an industrial source of helium. In 1903 a natural gas company in Dexter, Kansas, drilled into a well that was abundant in natural gas. However, attempts to burn the gas failed and a sample was eventually sent to the University of Kansas for further inspection. Cady and David McFarland analyzed the sample and discovered that it contained helium gas, and after much work Cady and McFarland were able to extract the helium gas. Before this discovery it was thought that helium gas could only be found on the Sun and in rare minerals. Cady and McFarland went to several other wells around Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma to discover that there was quite a bit of helium trapped in these wells, and although they did not know the importance of helium at the time, they opened a whole new door for scientific study. Cady went on to become the chairman for the department of chemistry at the University of Kansas and died May 26, 1943. Bailey Hall, the building where Cady and McFarland performed their experiments, is now a National Historic Chemical Landmark.
Entry: Cady, Hamilton
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: May 2012
Date Modified: July 2016
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