Samuel W. Parr

1857 to 1931
Coal Chemistry

Samuel W. ParrSamuel W. Parr was born in Granville, Illinois, in 1857. He earned a B.S. from the University of Illinois in 1884 and an M.S. from Cornell University in 1885. He joined the faculty of the University of Illinois in 1891 as a professor of applied chemistry. He was also a consulting chemist with the Illinois State Geological Survey during its early years. In 1905, Parr provided the new Survey with its first space, which was located in the Noyes Chemical Laboratory on the University of Illinois campus. H. Foster Bain, the Director of the Survey from 1905 to 1909 wrote, “His generosity was shown in that, despite the chronically crowded condition of the University buildings, he cleared out one of the largest and best situated rooms in the Chemistry building and made it available to us.”

Parr performed all the early coal analyses for the Survey and contributed an extensive database on the physical and chemical composition of Illinois coal from the beginning of the Survey in 1905 until the early 1930s, at which time the Survey began to conduct in-house analyses. Parr specialized in studies of coal weathering, deterioration, oxidation, and spontaneous combustion of coals. His close working relationship is well demonstrated by the numerous publications on the chemical composition of Illinois coals he published together as a Survey bulletin. Richard Harvey, Senior Geologist Emeritus added “together with Gilbert Cady, they put Illinois coal on the map.” Prior to his work with the Survey, Parr developed the Parr calorimeter to measure the heating value of coal. His calorimeter and its derivatives have been widely used by the Survey. In 1899, in Champaign, Parr also founded the Standard Calorimeter Company, which later became known as the Parr Instrument Company and relocated to Moline, Illinois.

Honored by: 
Parr Instrument Co. (Michael Stefferson, President)
Citation Contributed by: 
William R. Roy