Benjamin Silliman, Jr. was a professor of chemistry at Yale University and instrumental in developing the oil industry.
His father Benjamin Silliman Sr., also a famous Yale chemist, developed the process of fractional distillation that enabled the economical production of kerosene. In 1855, Silliman Jr. wrote a report for $526.08 on Pennsylvania rock oil and its usefulness as an illuminant that convinced investors to back George Bissell's search for oil.
Benjamin Silliman Sr. was clearly the largest inspiration in Benjamin Silliman Jr.’s career. Both Sillimans were eminent chemists and professors of the subject at Yale University. The father was the first professor of chemistry at Yale in 1802, and studied the subject at the Medical College of the University of Pennsylvania. He was also professor of natural history -- which was defined as geology, mineralogy, zoology, and botany -- all of which he studied at the University of Edinburgh. His work in those areas established Yale’s rock and mineral collection as the most significant in America at the time. With his help, Yale became the foremost center of science in 19th-century America. Benjamin Silliman Sr. is considered by many to be the father of American chemistry. With the exception of Silliman Jr.’s involvement in the oil boom, there are many similarities between the careers of both Sillimans.