Titanic hero's descendants to receive award from Royal Society of Chemistry

16 November 2012

The Royal Society of Chemistry will present, on Monday, an award to the descendants of a French chemist, as a tribute to his heroic actions before dying with the Titanic a century ago.

Family members are travelling to London, where they will  receive, on 19 November, the award of an engraved silver plate, to be presented at the society's headquarters in Burlington House on Piccadilly.

The RSC decided to honour the French chemist RenÚ Jacques LÚvy in the centenary year of the 1912 sinking of Titanic after it had unearthed an account of his selfless actions on the stricken liner.

The audience at the RSC Chemistry Centre event will hear how LÚvy, regardless of his own likely fate, aided at least one fellow passenger on the ship and, having said his farewells, died with the White Star vessel. 

The Royal Society of Chemistry discovered the story of LÚvy's life and times early this year among the archives of a Jewish genealogical society based in France. 

French-born LÚvy was not due to be on the Titanic at all. 

He had emigrated to Quebec, Canada, in 1910 with his wife and three young daughters. A family funeral caused him to return to France in 1912 and LÚvy had originally been booked to return to Canada via New York on board the France. 

But learning that the Titanic could bring him home 10 days earlier, he changed his plans and opted for a second class cabin on board the doomed passenger liner. 

After lunch on 14 April 1912, LÚvy was on deck with passengers Noel Malachard and Marie Jerwan when the Titanic struck the iceberg. Jerwan, an American woman of Swiss origin, later recorded the last moments on the vessel in her diary. 

Jerwan had also planned to travel on another liner, Olympic, "twin sister" of Titanic, but changed her mind when she heard the Olympic had been sent for repairs at Belfast's Harland and Wolff shipyards, having sustained rotting on one of its propellers. 

After Titanic struck the iceberg, Jerwan, who had been up to the embarkation deck to see the iceberg, warned LÚvy of the potential danger, but he appeared relaxed and simply smiled. 

As the enormity of the disaster was realised, LÚvy, together with Malachard and another cabin-mate, waited at the B-Deck starboard side for Jerwan telling her they would take care of her. They went to the boat deck and Jerwan was helped by them into lifeboat 11 and lowered. 

The men waved and shouted '"au revoir!" as the lifeboat departed. 

LÚvy was never seen again and his body, if recovered, was never identified. He was 36 years old.

LÚvy worked for several years as an industrial chemist in Manchester for Clayton Aniline Company, a British manufacturer of dyestuffs.

His expertise as a chemist were in high demand as the company he worked for was busy producing colour-dying materials which later helped to equip the army and navy with the khaki and blue uniforms that became vital in the First Word war, which broke out two years later. 

LÚvy was born on 7 July 1875 in Nancy to parents from Alsace. He graduated as a chemist from the Chemical Institute of Nancy.

In 1897, LÚvy threw himself into a career in industry and moved to Manchester where he worked in the research laboratories of Clayton, managed by LÚvy's uncle, Charles Dreyfus. LÚvy worked in England for five years. 

Chaim Weizmann, the future first president of Israel, also worked at Clayton joining as a part-time research consultant in 1905 , leaving three years later to pursue an academic career.

RSC chief executive Dr Robert Parker, said today: "The RSC is aware that there are were probably many other heroes and heroines on Titanic whose stories will never be known. 

"But, when the society stumbled across this moving account of LÚvy's courage, we decided that an RSC award should be conferred to mark and record his selflessness, 100 years after he was claimed by the Atlantic, having done what he considered a moral duty to a fellow passenger, who lived to tell the tale."  

Related Link

RenÚ Jacques LÚvy

RSC honours Titanic chemist who gave up his life for female passenger

20 February 2012

RenÚ Jacques LÚvy, a French chemist who was never seen again after giving up his lifeboat seat for a female passenger, is to be given the RSC President's Award.

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