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HIRSCH, ALCAN (1885–1938). Alcan Hirsch, chemist and inventor, the son of David and Olivia (Benedict) Hirsch, was born on February 1, 1885, in Corpus Christi. He was educated in Corpus Christi public schools and given private training by William DeRyee in mineralogy and chemistry. He earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin in 1907, and the M.S., Ch.E., and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, 1908–11. From 1900 to 1910 he was a research associate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1911 Hirsch established his own business, Hirsch Laboratory, in New York, to do consulting for industrial corporations and the governments of Japan and the Soviet Union. He was the first to prepare pure metallic cerium, and he invented the iron-cerium alloy used in lighter flints. In 1917 he founded Rector Chemical Company and in 1920 the Molybdenum Corporation of America (afterwards a part of Union Oil of California). Hirsch and Jokichi Takamine planned extensive Japanese chemical development in fermentation chemistry, manufacture of amino acids, and food supplements. Hirsch's book Industrialized Russia (1934) focused on the development of heavy chemical industry in the Soviet Union and the importance of United States diplomatic recognition. He was esteemed in the USSR as a founder of the Soviet heavy chemical industry. Hirsch died in New Rochelle, New York, on November 24, 1938. He was survived by his wife, Muriel (Polakoff), and four daughters.


Corpus Christi Caller, November 26, 1938. New York Times, November 19, 1916, November 25, 1938.

Frank Wagner


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Frank Wagner, "HIRSCH, ALCAN," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed November 26, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.