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Benjamin Silliman Jr. (1816-1885) was a significant figure in 19th-century American science, renowned for his contributions to chemistry and geology, notably in the burgeoning field of petroleum science. The son of a famed chemist and professor at Yale College, Benjamin Silliman Sr., he followed in his father's footsteps and carved out his own distinguished academic and scientific career. Graduating from Yale in 1837, he later became a professor of chemistry at the same institution, where he was instrumental in developing its scientific curriculum and facilities.

Silliman Jr. is perhaps best remembered for his pioneering work in the oil and petroleum industries in the United States. His analytical skills were showcased in 1855 when he conducted one of the first scientific studies of crude oil. Commissioned by the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company, his work provided a comprehensive chemical analysis of petroleum and helped stimulate the first American oil boom by highlighting oil's potential uses in illumination and lubrication. His report became a cornerstone in the development of the petroleum industry, demonstrating the economic viability of rock oil.

Aside from his scientific pursuits, Silliman Jr. also made notable contributions to the popularization of science through his editorship of the American Journal of Science, founded by his father. His efforts in science education and communication, coupled with his pioneering studies in petroleum, cemented his legacy as a key figure in American science during a period of rapid industrial and technological transformation.