Josephus Thomas Jr.

1927 to 1983
Physical Chemistry

Josephus Thomas was born in Linton, Indiana. He earned a B.S. in chemistry at Indiana State University in 1953 and a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Illinois in 1957. Thomas first worked as a research chemist with E. I. du Pont de Nemours in Wilmington, Delaware. He then joined the Survey in 1962 as the Head of the Physical Chemistry Section. Thomas measured the surface areas and the distribution of pore sizes of coals. He developed a novel and innovative technique to measure the surface area of coals from measuring the sorption of carbon dioxide by the coal. In 1966, Thomas coauthored a paper with John Harrison in the journal Fuel on the relationship between moisture content, reflectance values, and internal surface area of coal and authored a paper with Heinz Damberger in 1976 on the internal surface area, moisture content, and porosity of Illinois coals. Both papers added considerable insight into the coalification process. Damberger, former Head of the Coal Section, concluded that "he increased our understanding of coal significantly. He was a good researcher and his data were reliable and well recognized."

Thomas expanded his investigations to include the surface areas of New Albany Shale. His studies also included investigations of colloidal-size silica produced by southern Illinois tripoli (microcrystalline quartz), the thermal conductivity of carbonate rocks, and a method of determining fluoride in coal and clay. He was regarded as "a very versatile chemist." His work was not only published by the Survey, but by the American Chemical Society, Clays and Clay Minerals, and Analytical Chemistry. He was listed in American Men of Science in 1970, Who's Who in the Midwest in 1974, and Who's Who in Technology Today in 1982. He was a member of the Illinois Academy of Science.

He had a wife, Beverly, and three daughters. He was very active in the area's duplicate bridge circle up to his untimely death. He is remembered as a pleasant and enjoyable man.

Honored by: 
Jonathan H. Goodwin, William R. Roy, and Rodney R. Ruch
Citation Contributed by: 
William R. Roy