Skip to main content

Crafts, James Mason, 1839-1917



  • Existence: 1839 March 8 - 1917 June 20


James Mason Crafts, 1839-1917, S.B., Lawrence Scientific School, Harvard University, 1858, was president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1897-1900. Born in Boston, Crafts would study chemistry at Harvard, graduating with his bachelors of science in 1858. Afterward, in 1860, he would migrate to Germany to study under Robert Bunsen for one year, and later relocate to Paris to work with Charles Adolph Wurtz until his return to the United States in 1865 [1]. In 1867, Crafts would become the first professor of chemistry and dean of the chemical faculty at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, a position in which he retained for three years until starting his professorship at MIT in 1870 [1]. He served two distinct tenure periods as a professor of organic chemistry at the Institute -- first from 1870-1880, and another term from 1892-1897.

As a non-resident professor, Crafts would spend much of the next two decades between Boston and Paris. Leaving for France in 1874, he'd start his professional years-long collaboration with Professor Charles Friedel, co-discovering the important organic reaction bearing each of their names, the Friedel-Crafts Reaction, in 1877 [1]. Much of Crafts’ most successful research would stem from his continued partnership with Friedel.

Soon after permanently returning to the U.S. in 1891, Crafts was elected as a lifelong member of the MIT Corporation and returned as the Institute's chairman of the chemical department in 1892. Following the death of Francis Amas Walker, Crafts assumed the position of President of MIT in 1897. He resigned the post in 1900, deciding to pursue independent research on organic and physical chemistry full-time. [1]

In 1885, Crafts received the Jecker prize of the Paris Academy of Sciences, and was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honor of France. In 1898 he was awarded the honorary degree of LL.D. by Harvard University, and in 1911 the Rumford Medal by this Academy "for his research in high temperature thermometry and the exact determination of fixed points on the thermometric scale." [2]

He was married to Clemence Haggerty of New York City in June 1868, until her death in 1912 [2]. During their marriage, they shared four daughters. James Mason Crafts died at his Summer home in Connecticut on June 20th, 1917.

1.Theodore W. Richards, "James Mason Crafts (1839-1917)" American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 53, No. 10 (September 1918) 2. Avery A. Ashdown, "James Mason Crafts" Journal of Chemical Education, Vol.5, No.8 (August 1928) 3. "James Mason Crafts, 1839-1917" MIT Libraries (October 2004)


Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Avery Allen Ashdown papers

 Collection — Box 1: [Barcode: 39080008715168]
Identifier: MC-0137
Scope and Contents of the Collection The papers of Avery Allen Ashdown contain a scrapbook of newspaper clippings and diary entries; material on Ashdown House; and biographical essays on the following chemical engineers associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Arthur Alphonzo Blanchard, William H. Carlisle, Jr., Arthur Clay Cope, James Mason Crafts, Tenney Lombard Davis, Frederick George Keyes, Gilbert Newton Lewis, Arthur D. Little, James Flack Morris, Allan Winter Rowe, William P. Ryan, and Charles William...
Dates: 1928 - 1956

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the President records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AC-0013
Abstract The collection documents the administration of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the responsibilities and activities of the Institute's presidents between 1897 and 1930. This was a period of enormous growth and development of the Institute, which was chartered in 1861 and graduated its first class of undergraduates in 1868. There is correspondence about the proposed merger with Harvard University in 1904 and a proposed alliance in 1911. The purchase of land, the planning...
Dates: 1883 - 1941; Majority of material found within 1897 - 1931

William Barton Rogers papers

Identifier: MC-0001
Abstract This collection contains the personal correspondence of William Barton Rogers, the founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Family and professional correspondence, notes, articles, lectures, clippings, and drafts of articles on scientific topics, documents relating his philosophy on science and technology education, and many antecedent documents relating to the establishment and early years of MIT are included. An important part of the collection is drafts of...
Dates: 1804 - 1950; Majority of material found within 1834 - 1882