Alfred du Pont was born on April 11, 1798 in France to Eleuthere and Sophie Dalmas du Pont. His father's career during the French Revolution as both moderate politician and printer fell into disfavor as the Revolution became increasingly radical. The du Pont family fled to the United States, arriving on January 1, 1800. After a period in Bergen Point, New Jersey, the family settled outside Wilmington, Delaware, where in 1802 the E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company was established to produce the high quality gunpowder in great demand at the time.
Du Pont’s early studies were directed by his parents and perhaps a private tutor. In 1811 he was sent to Mont Airy College, north of Philadelphia in Germantown. His father intended him to have a useful education in chemistry, so Alfred was sent to Dickinson College to study under Professor Thomas Cooper. Du Pont arrived in May 1816 and entered the College as a member of the class of 1818. He joined the Belles Lettres Literary Society, and a few months later was elected its president. In September 1816, Professor Cooper and College President Jeremiah Atwater’s quarrels divided the faculty; both men left the College, and were followed by most of the remaining faculty. Dickinson College was closed, and the students dismissed.
Du Pont went to Philadelphia where he was reunited with Professor Cooper. He accepted a position as Cooper's assistant at the University of Pennsylvania, where he set up laboratory equipment for the professor's demonstrations. However, du Pont’s formal education ended in 1818. The death of his grandfather and legal action taken against the company by a shareholder had weakened the family business. In March 1818, a disastrous explosion at the powder mill killed many workers and destroyed the mill. Du Pont returned home to help salvage the heavily indebted company.
In 1837, Alfred du Pont became head of the Du Pont Company. The constant strain of running the business, another mill explosion in 1847, and the difficult aftermath of once again rebuilding the family business damaged du Pont’s health. He retired in 1850. In October, 1824, du Pont had married Margaretta Elizabeth La Mott; the couple had seven children. Alfred Victor du Pont died on October 4, 1856 at his home in Delaware.
The du Pont family connection with the College was remembered in 1950, when his grandson Irenee du Pont, donated 500 shares in the Christiana Securities Company to endow the Alfred Victor du Pont Chair of Chemistry.
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