Orin W. Rees

1898 to 1980
Analytical Chemistry

Orin W. ReesOrin Rees was born in Vermillion Grove, Illinois. He earned his B.S. in 1922 at Earlham College (Indiana) and his M.S. at the University of Illinois. He received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1931 from the University of Illinois. During fall 1931, he joined the Survey as a research analyst in the Geochemical Division. With time, he became the Survey's in-house expert on chemical and physical analyses of coal. He established quality laboratories and hired quality people to work in them. By 1939, he had extended his expertise to include the analysis of crude oil samples. At that time, World War II had created an urgent demand for crude oil, and Illinois with its new discoveries had jumped from twelfth place in oil production among the states in 1937 to fourth in the nation in 1939.

In 1939, Rees became Chemist and Head of the Analytical Division. Although he added oil and gas analyses to his repertoire, his main emphasis continued to be on Illinois coal. He developed procedures for analyzing the chemical and physical properties of coals, their banded ingredients, and coal ash. He published his findings in the Survey's Report of Investigations and Circular series. Rees investigated the moisture contents, plasticity, and swelling properties of coals and the changes in chemical composition of Illinois coal during storage.

In 1960, Rees was presented the Award of Merit by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for his distinguished service to the society. He was Chairman of the ASTM committee on coal and coke and its advisory committee. Rees accomplished much during his life, despite the fact he contracted polio when he was two years old. He was confined to a wheelchair in 1965 and retired in 1966 after working at the Survey for 32 years. During his retirement years, he traveled about the community in a specially equipped van he called "Ironside", after the then-popular television program. One of his hobbies was radios. At the age of 78, he learned Morse code and obtained his license to operate a ham radio. Ironside was also equipped with citizen band and amateur radios and receivers.

Honored by: 
Morris W. Leighton
Citation Contributed by: 
William R. Roy