Charles Martin Hall: Man Made Aluminum

Consumers encounter aluminum on a daily basis; soda cans, foil and even bicycles are made from the metal.  Aluminum has the advantages of being inexpensive to create and easy to recycle, which is why  aluminum is one of the most common metals used in products today.  Surprisingly, it was largely the work of one man that brought the convenience and usefulness of aluminum to the public.

On this day, February 23rd, in 1886, Charles Martin Hall produced the first samples of man-made aluminum.  Prior to his success, Hall had spent several years failing to produce the metal.  With the help of his sister, Hall discovered that he could produce aluminum by passing an electric current through alumina dissolved in cryolite.

In addition to discovering the process to make aluminum, Hall is also credited with originating the American spelling of the word. Hall accidently forgot to add the second “i” to the word aluminum when publicizing his discovery.  The misspelled name, aluminum, became so popular that the spelling was never corrected.  Aluminum was the first metal to gain widespread use since the discovery of iron.