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Henry D. Dakin


Centurion, 1919–1952

Full Name Henry Drysdale Dakin

Born 12 March 1880 in London, England

Died 10 February 1952 in Scarborough, New York

Buried Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York

Proposed by Edmund B. Wilson and Henry O. Taylor

Elected 1 November 1919 at age thirty-nine

Century Memorial

Dr. Dakin was born in London and graduated from Victoria University in Manchester, England, in 1901. He held honorary degrees from Yale, Heidelberg, and Leeds Universities.

He was a great research chemist. In the First World War “Dakin’s Solution” became a familiar phrase in the trenches and at home, and it was the miracle drug of that generation.

Dakin showed the most wonderful ingenuity and resourcefulness when, after having taught the surgeons in the First World War how to make hypochlorite solutions useful in the treatment of wounds, he bludgeoned the British Admiralty into allowing him to equip the Aquatania—then engaged in transfer of the wounded from Gallipoli back to Britain—with a huge tank for the electrolytic conversion of the sodium chloride of sea water into sodium hypochlorite. It then became possible to disinfect and deodorize the whole ship and to transform its stench of purulent wounds into wholesomeness.

He was, however, no ordinary scientist. He had a marvelously stocked and disciplined mind, and the native kindliness and generosity of his spirit were enlivened by a gift of incisive wit which won him the affectionate admiration of all who came to know him well.

It is related that when a candidate was being sought for the professorship of biochemistry in Oxford University, Sir Charles Sherrington approached Dakin with the query whether he would consider accepting the post. His declination was phrased in some such language as this: He felt obliged to decline the great honor because he felt sure that Oxford University could not support him in the style to which Mrs. Dakin had accustomed him.

George W. Martin
1953 Century Association Yearbook