Hudson Maxim (February 3, 1853 – May 6, 1927), was a U.S. inventor and chemist who invented a variety of explosives, including smokeless gunpowder, Thomas Edison referred to him as "the most versatile man in America". He was the brother of Hiram Stevens Maxim, inventor of the Maxim gun and uncle of Hiram Percy Maxim, inventor of the Maxim Silencer.
Maxim started his career in 1881 as the publisher of Real Pen Work - Self Instructor in Penmanship, a book addressing the arts of calligraphy and penmanship, and the sale of special inks, pens, and other supplies related to penmanship. Later he joined his brother Hiram Stevens Maxim's workshop in the United Kingdom, where they both worked on the improvement of smokeless gunpowder. After some disputes, Hudson Maxim returned to the United States and developed a number of stable high explosives, the rights of which were sold to the DuPont company.
During World War I, Maxim wrote a book, Defenseless America, in which he pointed out the inferiority of the American defence system and the vulnerability of the country against attacks of foreign aggressors. His good friend, Elbert Hubbard, died on the RMS Lusitania when it was torpedoed by a German submarine. This event fueled his belief that the USA should improve its defenses and join the war against Germany on the side of the Entente.
Maxim also wrote the book The Science of Poetry and the Philosophy of Language about the nature and writing of poetry. In this work, he contended that words, like chemical particles, had natural laws that governed the manner in which they could be combined into verse, and that poetry perceived as excellent was in fact one that conformed to those laws. He also argued that certain famous poets (William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth) had discovered those laws and put them to use in their poetry.
During his experimental career, he lost his left hand in a mercury fulminate explosion in 1894.
During the last 25 years of his life, Maxim spent most of his time at his home on the shores of Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey. He was a great promoter and supporter of the development of Lake Hopatcong and the Borough of Hopatcong and is honored by memorials in Hopatcong State Park and the Borough of Hopatcong's Maxim Glen Park. He spoke and wrote prolifically on many topics - from his opposition to maintaining the Morris Canal, to his disdain of Prohibition, to his love of poetry and boxing.
Maxim appeared as King Neptune during the first two years of the Miss America Pageant in 1921 and 1922, arriving on a great float and presenting the trophy to the winner.
He was an important member of the College of Fellows of the Academy of Nations.
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