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Joseph W. Richards collection

Identifier: SC MS 0097

Scope and Contents

This collection contains material related to Joseph W. Richards, Lehigh professor and the college’s first PhD recipient, including certificates, awards, property titles, and photographs of the Richards family.


  • Creation: 1890s - 1901


Access Restrictions

Access Restrictions:Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Use Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

Please inquire about copyright information.

Biographical / Historical

Joseph W. Richards born in 1864 in Oldbury, Worcestershire, England to Joseph and Bridget Harvey Richards who had four children: Joseph William (1864-1921), Annie (1867-1879), Mary Ellen (1874-1945), Florence Harvey (1878-1944). Joseph Richards was a chemist and was an apprentice of Stevenson, who built the first locomotive. The Richards Family parents, daughter Annie and son Joseph William, came to Philadelphia when Joseph W. was around seven years old in 1871. Subsequently two more children were born in Philadelphia (Ellen and Florence). Joseph William’s sisters were also prominent: Ellen became a social worker in Philadelphia and Florence got a medical doctor’s degree from University of Pennsylvania medical school). Senior Joseph Richards built the first zinc factory in Philadelphia. He was given a patent regarding the soldering of aluminum. His son, Joseph William graduated from the Philadelphia school system in 1882 and enrolled at Lehigh University to study chemistry. His senior thesis was titled “Aluminium.” He graduated from Lehigh in chemistry in 1886. Upon graduation he went to work in industry in his father’s metal refinery in Philadelphia for a year but was brought back to Lehigh as an instructor by Professor William Chandler. In 1891 he earned his M.S. and in 1893 earned Lehigh’s first Ph.D. but his dissertation was about copper not aluminum. He married Arna Marie Gadd (d. 1920). They had three children: Evelyn Packer (1888-?), Winifred [Rudolf Hommel] (1893-?), William [Will] (1890-1977). The academic year 1897-1898 Joseph W. spent at Heidelberg and Freiburg, Germany. Upon his return from Germany, he became a professor of metallurgy, mineralogy, and blow-piping at Lehigh until his death in 1921. During his career he and his family traveled extensively. He was one of the founders of the American Electrochemical Society and its first president 1902-3 and secretary 1907-21. He was a member of the American Inst. of Mining & Metallurgical Engineers (chairman of Iron & Steel Committee); Naval Consulting Board; President of Franklin Institute’s Chemical Section; Engineering Division of National Research Council; American Engineering Standards Commission; U.S. Assay Commission; Chairman of Metallurgy for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition; National Geographic Society; Bach Choir; Faraday Society; Deutsche Bunsen Gesellschaft; American Chemical Society; American Iron & Steel Institute and Iron & Steel Institute of Great Britain. Joseph W. Richards received the awards: 1895 John Scott Legacy Premium and Medal for “Solder for Aluminium,” 1901 John Scott Legacy Medal for “Balance for Testing White Metal Alloys” by the Franklin Institute. His most important book is “Treatise on Aluminum,” 1887. He had an unselfish devotion to encouraging the interests of engineers and chemists.


0.5 Linear Feet (1 Volume in box, 0.5 Linear Feet)

Language of Materials



This collection contains material related to Joseph W. Richards, Lehigh professor and the college’s first PhD recipient, including certificates, awards, property titles, and photographs of the Richards family.


This collection is arranged topically.

Acquisition Information

The material in this collection was donated to Lehigh in 1999 by the husband of Richard’s granddaughter, Kirsten Richards Vandenberg, daughter of William Richards.

Related Materials

Richards, Joseph W. 1887. “Aluminium: its history, occurrence, properties, metallurgy and applications, including its alloys.” Philadelphia: H.C. Baird & Co.

Separated Materials

All photographs housed in Lehigh Photo Collection.

Kevin Augustyn.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Script of description
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Language of description note
Lehigh University Library and Technology Services.

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-6091 (Fax)