In troubleshooting one must never forget the portable laboratory equipment that one carries around—the senses of sight, sound, scent, taste and touch. There is also the common sense that stops one tasting things if there is any cyanide about.

Long years ago the Deutsche Hydriewerke started marketing non-soapy detergents of the cetyl or oleyl sulfate variety. Prior to World War II, the British textile industry was as dependent on German supplies of these materials as it had been on German dyestuffs prior to World War I.

Foreseeing what was going to happen, I started in 1936 to work out a process for making cetyl, stearyl and oleyl alcohols, taking the head oil of the sperm whale as a starting point. The sperm whale's body oil differs but little from that of any other whale. The so-called head oil, however, is not an oil at all but a liquid wax; that...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?