Herbert Henry Dow
Dow Chemical is one of the world's best known companies, but what is not so well known is that the founder of the company, Herbert Henry Dow, spent the first twelve years of his life growing up in Derby! He was born in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, on February 26, 1866, but the family's hometown was Derby, and Dow's father, Joseph, moved them back when Henry was only six weeks old. The father was an inventor and mechanical engineer, and he found work as a master machinist for several local companies where he both improved and maintained their machines. That was a period of industrial growth and prosperity in Derby. The father worked mostly in the field of steam turbines. In 1873, Joseph went to work for the Derby Shovel Manufacturing Company. When the company relocated to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1878, and young Henry moved with his family at the age of 12.
According to various biographers, young Henry was inquisitive and industrious. At age ten, he earned enough money on his own to finance a trip to the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. After leaving Derby with a solid foundation for life, he graduated from Case Western University where he studied chemistry though it is said that architecture was his first choice of study, but the university didn't have it. Upon graduation, he worked as a chemistry professor in Cleveland while continuing his own research on bromine. His work in extracting bromine through electrolysis led to his 1891 patent for the Dow Process. That eventually led him to create the Dow Process company and then the Dow Chemical Company.
In 1930, he won the prestigious Perkin Medal which is given to a scientist residing in America for an "innovation in applied chemistry resulting in outstanding commercial development." Many consider it the highest honor given in the US industrial chemical industry.
Dow died in 1930 and his wife later started the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.
His favorite saying was, "If we can't do it better than the others, why do it?" That same spirit seemed in tune with many of the people who lived and worked in Derby between the Civil War and World War I.