Cross, Charles Frederick 1855 - 1935

English; British

(1855-1935) Analytical Chemist

Charles Frederick Cross was born on the 11th December 1855 at Brentford, Middlesex. He was educated at King's College, London where he graduated BSc in 1878 and spent some time at Zürich university and polytechnic and Owens College, Manchester. After early work on jute fibre in Barrow in Furness and Kew, in 1885 he set up in business in Lincoln's Inn in partnership with Edward J. Bevan, his fellow student at Manchester, as analytical and consulting chemists.

In 1892 Cross discovered viscose, which made the manufacture of artificial silk, afterwards called rayon, and also used for the manufacture of photographic film, possible. Initially, his interest in the fibre was not as a new textile but as a basis for the fine filaments needed for the newly developed electric lamp. Cross's patent remained a chemical master patent for its full term of years and was extended for a further term in view of its outstanding merit. It was soon worked throughout the world, and over the years 1893–1900 his process was developed through proprietary companies in London, Breslau, and Paris. With C. H. Stearn he founded the Viscose Spinning Syndicate, which developed the spinning of artificial silk. This was later acquired by Courtaulds.

Cross was also a pioneer in the production of transparent viscose films (cellophane), used in huge quantities by the packaging industry. Cross was actively interested in the theoretical and practical chemistry of Cellulose. When he began his research its chemical identity was obscure: by the 1920s his work had contributed largely to elucidating the basic features of its structure. He published his researches in book form as well as in contributions to scientific journals. His book Cellulose (written in collaboration with Bevan, 1895) is unique, full of imagination and stimulating ideas. He also published four volumes of Researches on Cellulose (1901–22), the first three in collaboration with Bevan, the last with Charles Dorée.

Cross was elected FRS in 1917, awarded the medal of the Society of Chemical Industry in 1916, the research medal of the Dyers' Company in 1918 and the Perkin medal of the Society of Dyers and Colourists in 1924. He married Edith Vernon in 1890; they had two sons and one daughter. He died at his home, 4C King's Gardens, Hove, Sussex, on 15 April 1935.