Warder, Robert B. (1848-1905) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
Robert Bowne Warder was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on March 28, 1848, and spent his early life in his country home at 'Aston,' North Bend, Ohio. He graduated from Earlham College at Richmond, Indiana, in 1866, and afterwards spent some time at Illinois State University at Champaign, where he was an instructor in chemistry and natural philosophy. This work of teaching seemed to show Professor Warder his natural bent, and his energy was then devoted to studying the broad principles underlying all natural science. He spent some time traveling, chiefly in the western half of the United States, in connection with the different state geological surveys. In 1875 he went to Harvard, where he graduated with his B.S. in chemistry in 1874. After graduating from Harvard he spent a year traveling in Germany, studying at Giessen under Heinrich Will, and at Berlin under Hofmann. His attention was, however, especially devoted to methods of teaching chemistry in the German universities, and the application of theoretical chemistry to the practical sciences. His chief aim was to fit himself in the broadest sense for his work of teaching. This was his main desire throughout life, to help others, and he never faltered. On returning to this country he was associated with Professor F.W. Clarke at the University of Cincinnati from 1875 to 1879 as professor of chemistry and physics. Professor Warder saw the close relations between these then distinct branches of natural science, and his papers on "The Sapped of Sapeninfication of Ethyl Acetate" and "Evidence of Atomic Motion Within Liquid Molecules" were pioneer investigations in the field of physical chemistry of today.
Research along these lines occupied him from 1879 to 1883. It was in the latter year that he was appointed to the chair of chemistry at Purdue University, where he remained until 1887. This position carried with it the duties of state chemist, work of a commercial character rather foreign to his natural tastes, but to which he gave the same painstaking devotion that characterized all his work. His four years at Purdue were years of quiet painstaking devotion to duty made altogether beautiful by the strength of his interest in common things affecting the welfare of students and professors. No one went to Professor Warder for aid and was turned away empty-handed. What he had was given freely, and he seemed to feel that no labor was too great in his fundamental desire to help others.
Philanthropic and evangelical work had always been foremost on his mind and labors, and in 1887, in the expectation of enlarging his opportunities for such work, he resigned his position at Purdue, to accept the professorship of chemistry at Howard University in Washington. Here he labored until he died, teaching chemistry and physics, but above all setting an example and teaching the principles of a Christian life with an unselfish devotion.