MSE Seminar: Paul Stonehart

"The Development of Color Chemistries and Materials in the 19th Century Influencing Art and Photography"

Monday, Feb. 6, 2017
2-2:50 p.m., Harshbarger 206


The mid-to-late 19th century was a remarkable period for new inventions, both in technology and artistic representation using the new technologies that had become available. Prior to Impressionism, subjects for painting were formalized into religious or allegorical figures, with posed portraiture. In the mid-19th century, photography was invented and the early blurred images gave a feeling of movement, which was mimicked by the Impressionists who wanted to depict motion and the brightness of the natural settings around them. At the same time, synthetic dyestuffs and colors became commercially available, opening up opportunities for artists with less formal training or sponsors.

The advent of cost-effective synthetic dyestuffs revolutionized the use of color in everyday life. The late 19th century saw artists exiting their studios and painting their subjects in the field as they saw them, with bright and strong colours. There were a series of technical advances that contributed to this movement, amongst which were developments of reliable light-fast paints, paint binders, new cost effective and reproducible pigments, and paint delivery systems.

Equally importantly in the latter half of the 19th century was the advent of that new visual technology now called photography, which interacted with the conventional artists' representations of scenes, portraiture and the depiction of movement which has evolved continuously through post-Impressionism to Modernism. Much of the credit for the ability of the Impressionists to depict the scenes around them and the bright colors "plein air," is due to this confluence of photography, paint packaging and paint pigment technologies.


Paul Stonehart is a polymath and the Royal Society of Chemistry’s 2004 Francis Bacon medalist and prize winner for his work in fuel cell science and technology. He was educated at King's College at the University of Cambridge and completed his PhD degree in 1962 in the department of physical chemistry, where he was the Salters' Scholar. He has published over 200 papers, reviews, books and book chapters; holds 100 patents worldwide; and has been cited at least 3,000 times. He is recognized as a pioneer and major world authority in fuel cell science, nanomaterials science and energy technology.

On leaving Cambridge, he joined the faculty of the Stanford University Department of Chemical Engineering from 1962 to 1964. During 1964-1969 he was the senior research chemist for the fuel cell research group at the American Cyanamid Company in Stamford, Connecticut. In 1972 that he was appointed head of the Advanced Fuel Cell Research Laboratories within Pratt and Whitney Aircraft. In 1976, he was appointed as the first Diamond Shamrock lecturer in electrochemistry and fuel cell science at Case Western Reserve University. Also in 1976 he founded Stonehart Associates Inc. in Connecticut. In 1985 he was approached by several Japanese Companies with a view to licensing fuel cell catalyst and electrode technology for production and sale in Japan, and the first license was consummated in 1987. This license was with a bullion and precious metal supplier, Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K.K. In 1989 he was asked to initiate and co-chair the high-level International Fuel Cell Workshop in Tokyo, Japan, to provide a linkage with U.S. research groups. Subsequent meetings were made an all-Japanese organized affair and continued as the International Fuel Cell Conferences, cycling in the off years with the previously established U.S. Department of Energy Fuel Cell Seminars.

In 1990, Stonehart embarked on an examination on the history of paints and pigments, recognizing that supporting the artistic community was an unrecognized stratum of prototypical chemists making those pigments. Starting with the Impressionists, the topic ranged back to biblical times and forward to pigments and dyes for ink jets printers and digital media storage.  

On the professional side, he became a fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry in 1974; he is now emeritus FRSC. He founded the U.S. section of the Royal Society of Chemistry, to represent the several thousand members resident in the United States; he is now president emeritus. He is emeriti in the American Chemical Society, the Electrochemical Society, the International Society of Electrochemistry and the Carbon Society. Since 1989 he has been an associate fellow of Branford College at Yale University. In 1989 he was also appointed as a visiting professor of chemical engineering at the University of Connecticut. In 1992 he was a visiting professor in chemistry to Yamanashi University in Japan. In 1999 he was appointed as the visiting professor of chemistry at Witwatersrand University in South Africa, and in 2000 as a senior research fellow to the Edelstein Center at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. In 2000, he was also named a visiting professor in materials science and engineering at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. In 2003 he held an appointment in the department of chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, California. In 2005, he was the visiting professor of chemistry at the Institute of Electrochemistry at the University of Alicant in Spain.  

His most recent putative book concerns the history of cookbooks 1851-2010; and he is now embarking on solving the chemistry of cancer.

University of Arizona College of Engineering