Ernest Albert Vuilleumier (1894-1958)

Ernest A. Vuilleumier, c.1945

Ernest Vuilleumier was born on March 1, 1894 in New York City, New York. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1914 and obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Berne, Switzerland through a 1916 Rosengarten traveling fellowship. While he was there, the United States entered the First World War and Vuilleumier made his way to France to enlist with the 162nd United States Infantry in Bordeaux in 1918; he later served with the Chemical Service. He had begun his teaching career at the Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia before going abroad and he worked as an industrial chemist between 1919 and 1920 after returning.

Vuilleumier came to Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1920 as an associate professor of chemistry. Four years later he was a full professor and chairman of the chemistry department. He was appointed dean of the junior class in 1927, dean of the freshman class in 1928, and dean of the College from 1933 to 1947. Vuilleumier was the first occupant of the C. Scott Althouse Chair of Chemistry, the president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science in 1941, and also served as the chairman of the American Chemical Society. He authored many pamphlets and articles, particularly relating to his interests in the analysis of alcoholic liquids and electrodeposition. In 1923, Vuilleumier invented the Dickinson Alchometer, a device used during Prohibition by the federal and state governments to ascertain quickly and accurately the percentage of alcoholic content in contraband liquor. A year later, he invented the Dickinson Solids Hydrometer, a direct reading apparatus for determining the specific gravity of solids.

Vuilleumier was the secretary of the faculty in 1957 and marshal of the College. As dean, he served as interim chief officer of the College after the illness and death of President Cornelius Prettyman and before the arrival of President William Edel. He also served as the chairman of Dickinson's annual Priestley Celebration when it began in 1952. For all of his forty year career at the College, Vuilleumier was very popular with the vast majority of students. Vuilleumier married Frances E. Smith in 1924, valedictorian of the Dickinson class of that year. He announced his retirement from all duties but teaching in September 1958. A few weeks later, on Monday, October 6, 1958, Ernest Albert Vuilleumier died suddenly in the stockroom of Althouse Hall of Science while preparing for his class. He was sixty-four years old.

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Dickinson College Archives
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Acting, 1945-1946