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Harold Willliam Robinson

In grade school, Dad and his best friend John were aspiring scientists, and wanted a balance to weigh stuff accurately. So they made one. 


It helped that John's father was from the Sauter family in Germany that was famous for their balances. 


Dad said they made this one from scraps, as they had no money. The wood came from old wine cases, and the scale was a little piece of ivory from his father. They had a saw, and a screwdriver. How they did the brass parts I have no idea.

Thomas Edison

One day I found a Kunzite stone that I thought was especially pretty.

“I knew him, you  know.”

“Knew WHO?”

Dad was fairly reticent.

He said Dr. Kunz was an old man when he knew him at T&Co, and it was he who recommended the field of precious metals to Dad, as he might be interested it in from a chemical standpoint, as Dad wasn’t interested in becoming a jeweler, like the rest of the family. (June Robinson)

Harold William Robinson

Not too long ago, I asked Dad if he had known Thomas Edison. I had learned that those kind of questions were not crazy, but you had to ask them. "No," he said. "But John's father worked for him."

(June Robinson)

Dad was a master of understatement.

A demonstration of static electricity would typically be accompanied by the statement "It's science!"  

"Works better if you plug it in" was his explanation of why the living room table lamp was not working.

He was also fond of remarking "Better living through chemistry" in regards to just about anything.

(June Robinson)

Dad gold plated a bunch of different things in the testing process. He "invented" gold lame - as he was the first to gold plate some leather, which he had made into a hang bag for Mrs. Engelhard."(JRN)

I was talking to Dad about the Flamel brothers, the ones who used the red philospher's stone and some mercury to make gold, in 1382. (They got rich, and funded a lot of churches, including St. Jacques La Boucherie, of which only the tower is left, thanks to the Revolution.)

Dad said it's little known that gold is quite soluable in liquid mercur, you can warm up the mercur and later the gold will crystalize out.

Harold William Robinson Resume,

from his papers:



Tiffany summer job


Tiffany fulltime:

Assayed carat gold alloys, sterling silver, PT IR alloys. Controlled refinery process
and refinery products.


Baker and Co: analytical chemist.

Assay Lab at 149 Murray St.


Transferred to research: refining, production of precious metal compounds


Production of silver chloride
for submarine batteries for GE


Head of Electrochemical Dept


Classified project for the AEC


Head of Assay Lab


Co-director of Analytical Services

Harold William Robinson



born Birmingham England


Moved to USA

Places Dad lived:

20 Windermere Road, Handsworth Birmingham England

462 Kingsland Road Nutley NJ 1942

13 Boyden St. East Orange

23 So. Harrison

451 Springdale A East Ornage

140 Roseville Av Newark 7 1944

It was good having a chemist for a father. He could make a glass of lightening bug juice, in the kitchen. 

My mother was very protective, and would not let me cook for fear of my hurting myself on the hot stove. Meanwhile, Dad would say "hey kid, you want to go in the basement and make a bomb? Don't tell your Mother."

Dad had three songs he would sing.

Glow little Glow Worm,

I am the Model of a Modern Major General, 

and those Bones.

(June Robinson)

Engelhard Minerals and Chemicals


Dad came home from work one day when I was in high school with an odd look on his face.

"You'll never what happened today. A man called me up and asked me to write the section on gold for an encyclopedia."

Dad said okay, and asked him how he got his name.

"We called the Library of Congress and asked for

the World's Expert on gold".




Atomex, Baker & Co.
Harold Robinson at the Tiffany & Co lab in Newark NJ

Dad  worked for T&Co part-time, when he was going to Columbia. He melted down jewelry for its metal content for the war. They were “allowed” to keep pieces, as long as they replace the metal content. They kept gold chain in their pockets to do so. It happened rarely, and with small items only, no one could afford to replace large pieces. (June Robinson)

Dad, age 17, making the gold at the Tiffany labs in Newark.

Harold Robinson at Baker & Co.

Baker and Co was absorbed by Engelhard Industries, the world's largest minerals and chemicals corporation.

Dad was there from the beginning, and could tell stories about "Old Man Engelhard, from the old country". His son, Charles Engelhard, was the inspiration for the character "Goldfinger", which was written by his friend Ian Fleming.

It should be mentioned that Dad had the greatest respect for both father and son.

(June Robinson)

They had access to an atom smasher, and they tried to make diamonds. They could do it, they just couldn't make any gem quality diamonds. They could, however, make emeralds out of diamonds but nobody was interested. 

His friend and co-worked Dr. Rosenblatt decided to keep trying, and he came up with the Diamonaire, the first gem quality cubic zircona commerically produced. (Shown here is one of the first three rings produced."(JRN)

Dad believed that he was the last living person to have ever seen plutonium. "Huh?" "We kept it in a shoe box. We used to pass it around."(JRN)

Dad had some nicknames.

At Engelhard they called him "Robbie." Family and friends called him "Hal".

Mom called him "Hallie".

Pure Nickel
Tungsten Rod
Pure Molybdenum Foil
Tantalum Metal Tansteel Products Co
Pure Zinc


Because if you are going to assay something, you are going to need a baseline, right?

An assay is an investigative (analytic) procedure in laboratory medicine, pharmacology, environmental biology and molecular biology for qualitatively assessing or quantitatively measuring the presence or amount or the functional activity of a target entity (the analyte). Wikipedia

"the testing of a metal or ore to determine its ingredients and quality"


You can see how Dad might have gotten into the assay biz. 
He was born into a family of jewelers and silver and gold smiths. He liked science. He wasn't interested in the jewel part. 

Molybdenum is added to steel to make it extra strong, and is used to make missile and aircraft parts.

Assay Office Birmingham UK

Read about the history of the Birmingham Assay office on their own site

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