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Melvin Alonzo Cook

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Melvin Alonzo Cook (Born::October 10, 1911Died::October 12, 2000) was an American chemist who received a B.A. in chemistry and an M.A. in physical chemistry from Utah University. Cook then earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Yale University where he published five articles on thermo-electrochemistry. He was offered a job at the Eastern Laboratory of Du Pont Company four months before graduation.

While at Du Pont he made many advancements in the field of explosives. His most beneficient theory while at Du Pont was his “Theory of Detonations.” Its original purpose was for commercial use but when World War II came, it was revised and put into use for the Allies. This was considered one of the central developments in the history of explosives.

Cook's greatest commercial invention was published in December of 1956, while consulting for Iron Ore Company of Canada at the Knob Lake Mine in Labrador, where he created a new explosive agent using an unusual mixture of ammonium nitrate, aluminum powder, and water. The safety and efficiency of this new explosive were outstanding, and the use of water was unheard of at that time.

Melvin Cook was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At one point in his career, he was asked to write a prologue to the LDS church’s leader of the time. His book was called Man: His Origin and Destiny. Many scientists of the time who were angry about this brought criticism against the book, which only fueled Cook’s ambition for religious and scientific discoveries.

  • Loomis Award from Yale University (1937)
  • Resident chemist at E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. (1937-47)
  • Professor of Metallurgy at the University of Utah (1947-70)
  • Explosives expert and Director of the Explosives Research Institute at the University of Utah
  • Founder (1958) and President (1962-72) and Chairman (1962-1974) of IRECO Chemicals in Salt Lake City
  • E.V. Murphree Gold Medalist Award, American Chemical Society (1968)
  • Nitro-Nobel Gold Medalist, Nitro-Nobel AB, Sweden (1969)
  • Chemistry Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists (1973)