Charles Martin Hall was an American inventor, businessman, and chemist. He is best known for his invention in 1886 of an inexpensive method for producing aluminum, which became the first metal to attain widespread use since the prehistoric discovery of iron.
Charles Martin Hall was born on December 6, 1863 in Thompson, Ohio, United States. Charles' father Herman graduated from Oberlin College in 1847, and studied for three years at the Oberlin Theological Seminary, where he met his future wife Sophronia Brooks. They married in 1849, and the next ten years were spent in missionary work in Jamaica, where the first five of their eight children were born.
They returned to Ohio in 1860, when the outbreak of the Civil War forced the closing of foreign missions. Charles Hall had two brothers and five sisters, one brother died in infancy.
Hall began his education at home, and was taught to read at an early age by his mother. At the age of six, he was using his father's 1840s college chemistry book as a reader. At age 8, he entered public school, and progressed rapidly.
His family moved to Oberlin, Ohio in 1873. He spent three years at Oberlin High School (Ohio), and a year at Oberlin Academy in preparation for college. During this time he demonstrated his aptitude for chemistry and invention, carrying out experiments in the kitchen and the woodshed attached to his house.
In 1880, at the age of 16, he enrolled at Oberlin College.
On Februry 23, 1886, less than a year after his graduation, Hall made the first small nuggets of aluminum by electrolysis of a solution of bauxite in a fused salt. He had great difficulty in interesting anyone in this new metal at one dollar a pound, but finally, in 1888, Hall established contact with the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, which later became the Aluminum Company of America and served as a vice president of the company.
Hall continued his research and development for the rest of his life and was granted 22 US patents, most on aluminum production. He served on the Oberlin College Board of Trustees. He was vice-president of Alcoa until his death.
Hall died, unmarried and childless, on December 27, 1914, twenty-one days after he had reached the age of 51, in Daytona, Florida. He was buried in Westwood Cemetery in Oberlin.