Glenn C. Finger

1905 to 1988
Fluorine Chemistry

Glenn C. FingerGlenn C. Finger worked for the Illinois State Geological Survey for 40 years and was a nationally and internationally known fluorine chemist. Born in Bloomington, Illinois, he attended Illinois State University at Normal before receiving his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Illinois in 1927 and 1928, respectively. He was a teaching assistant in chemistry at Purdue University in 1928-1929 and a research fellow there from 1929 to 1930. From 1930 to 1932, he was a teaching assistant at the University of Illinois, where he earned his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1938.

After starting work at the Survey in 1933, Finger rose steadily through the professional ranks and became Head of the Fluorine Chemistry Section in 1945. Significantly, during World War II, the ISGS research under Finger on synthesizing aromatic fluorine compounds for possible industrial application came to the attention of the federal government in its development of the atomic bomb. Samples of one of the chemicals synthesized by Finger were furnished to the federal government's Manhattan Project. One of the Project engineers wrote in 1945 that the loan enabled them to fulfill their critical requirements in a most timely way, proving the value of Finger's fluorine chemistry laboratory and M.M. Leighton's vision of multidisciplinary research in 1931. Based on this and other major contributions, Glenn C. Finger was promoted to Principal Chemist in 1962.

In July and August 1955, Finger represented the Illinois State Geological Survey at the XIV International Congress of Pure and Applied Chemistry in Zurich, Switzerland. He also visited universities and industrial laboratories in England and on the continent with reference to fluorine research. He lectured on fluorine chemistry at several universities during this time.

Upon Finger's retirement in 1973, the Board of Natural Resources and Conservation expressed its appreciation for the years of excellent service he gave to the State of Illinois and for his success in developing the outstanding program in the Midwest in the application of chemistry to the study of sediments, minerals, and mineral resources. The Board went on to note, "In recent years, the many environmental problems involving traces of toxic substances in sediments from Lake Michigan and stream channels, from fossil fuels, and from leachates from waste disposal areas, have strongly emphasized the essential character of the Survey's chemical work."

Honored by: 
Donald R. Dickerson
Citation Contributed by: 
Myrna M. Killey