- One of his explosive inventions helped the U.S. create the Panama Canal.
- Dr. Snelling held around 180 patents!
- He was awarded for discovering propane gas.
Who Was Dr. Walter Snelling?
Born on December 13, 1880, Dr. Walter Snelling was a chemist and significant contributor to the development of explosives and LP gas. Dr. Walter died in September 1965, at age 85.
Dr. Walter Snelling was born on December 13, 1880, in Washington, D.C., to Walter Comonfort Snelling and Alice Lee Hornor. His father, Comonfort, was a patented inventor, and his mother, Alice, was a medicine and law graduate with extensive travel and writing history.
- Full Name
- Dr. Walter Snelling
- December 13, 1880
- September 10, 1965
- Net Worth
- Edward Longstreth Medal (1962)
- Honorary Doctor of Science, Lehigh University
- Seven Children
- Place of Birth
- Washington D.C.
- Fields of Expertise
- Harvard University, Yale University, George Washington University
- Discovery of Propane
In 1904 and 1905, apart from being the first son of a patented inventor, Snelling received a B.S. from George Washington University and Harvard University respectively, and a Ph.D. from George Washington University in 1907. He also studied at Yale University.
Snelling worked at the United States Geological Survey in Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, between 1907 and 1910. During this period, Dr. Snelling invented an underwater detonator used to save the United States government up to $500,000 yearly during the Panama Canal construction.
From 1910 to 1917, Dr. Snelling worked as a private researcher consultant at the Trojan Powder Company. In 1917, he was promoted to the position of Director of Research and occupied the post until 1954, when he retired.
After retirement, Dr. Snelling routinely consulted for Trojan Powder Company until 1957.
Dr. Snelling was appointed as a consultant to the Atomic Energy Commission in 1946 and was with them until the commission was dissolved in 1960.
By 1960, Dr. Walter Snelling held 179 patents, mostly in Propane, explosives, oil-cracking, LP Gas, and ordnance.
What is Dr. Walter Snelling known for?
Invention 1 – Discovery of Propane
Dr. Snelling was made the chemist-in-charge of the United States Bureau of Mines’ explosives laboratory in 1910. Although focused on ensuring mine safety, Dr. Snelling also conducted various research on propane production following the discovery of Edmond Ronalds in 1864.
Snelling’s Propane discovery started in 1910 following an angry motorist’s visit to his office to complain about the quick evaporation rate of the gasoline he bought. The Chemist began to research the cause of such high evaporation and quickly discovered that the evaporating LP gases were butane, Propane, and other hydrocarbons.
He consequently highlighted Propane as a volatile gasoline component in the same year, 1910.
Dr. Walter Snelling: Marriage, Divorce, Children, and Personal Life
Dr. Walter Snelling married Helen Marjorie Gahring in 1919 in Union City, Pennsylvania. His wife, Helen, was the daughter of John Gahring, his first customer.
Dr. Walter Snelling and Helen Marjorie Gahring had seven children. One of their sons, Charles Darwin Snelling, was the Chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors. Another, Richard Arkwright Snelling, was the Governor of Vermont.
Dr. Walter Snelling lived in the home he purchased at the edge city’s West Park until his death on September 10, 1965. 11 years after, in 1976, his wife also died.
Dr. Walter Snelling Awards and Achievements
Award 1 – Edward Longstreth Medal (1962)
Franklin Institute recognized his work in 1962 through the Edward Longstreth Medal. His works included being the inventor of an underwater detonator and discovering propane.
Award 2 – Honorary Doctor of Science, Lehigh University
Snelling was also awarded Dr. of Science (Honorary) from Lehigh University.
Are you interested in more inventors and scientists? See the list below!
- Meet Albert Ludlum – Engineer, Inventor, and Business Owner! His inventions ranged from mining equipment to adding and writing machines.
- Johannes Gutenberg: One of Earth’s Most Important Inventors. The invention of the movable-type printing press was a huge invention.
- Meet Willgodt Odhner – Complete Biography, History, and Inventions. Everything you need to know about Willgodt is right here!