Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Abraham Pineo Gesner
Abraham Pineo Gesner, born May 2, 1797 in Cornwallis Township , Nova Scotia, Canada – died April 29, 1864 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was a physician and geologist who became one of the primary founders of the petroleum industry .
While a practising physician, Gesner pursued his passion for geology. In 1836, he published a study on the mineralogy of Nova Scotia, which included a detailed geological map providing information on the key deposits of iron ore and coal in Nova Scotia. In 1838, he was appointed Provincial Geologist for New Brunswick with the mission to undertake a similar geological survey.
Gesner's research in minerals resulted in his 1846 discovery of a process for making a better type of fuel from coal. His new product, that he called kerosene but was frequently referred to as coal oil, burned cleaner and was less expensive than the whale and vegetable oils then in use. In 1850, Gesner created the Kerosene Gaslight Company that began installing lighting on the streets in Halifax and soon in other places. By 1854 he had expanded to the United States where he created the North American Kerosene Gas Light Company at Long Island, New York. Demand grew to where his company’s capacity to produce became a problem but the discovery of oil, from which kerosene could be made, solved the supply problem.
Abraham Gesner continued his research on fuels and wrote a number of scientific studies concerning the industry including an 1861 publication titled, "A Practical Treatise on Coal, Petroleum and Other Distilled Oils" that became a standard reference in the field. Eventually Gesner's company was absorbed into the petroleum monopoly, Standard Oil and he returned to Halifax, where he was appointed a Professor of Natural History at Dalhousie University.
Abraham Gesner died on April 29, 1864.
In 1933, Imperial Oil Ltd., a Standard Oil subsidiary, erected a memorial to pay tribute to Abraham Gesner's contribution to the petroleum industry in Camp Hill Cemetery in Halifax. In 2000, he was honored by the government of Canada with his image on a postage stamp.
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