MERTON, family of British and German industrialists and philanthropists. ABRAHAM LYONS MOSES (1775–1854), whose sons later dropped the name Moses and called themselves Merton, shared in the founding of the Jews' Orphan Asylum and with Henry Solomon endowed a number of alms-houses in 1838. RALPH MERTON (1815–1883), his son, settled in Frankfurt and joined the metal firm of his father-in-law, Philip Abraham Cohen, after whose death Merton expanded the company and renamed it Metallgesellschaft. It became one of the most important metal and metallurgical concerns in Germany. He maintained close business relations with his brother, HENRY R. MERTON (1848–1929), who headed Henry R. Merton and Co. of London, which held a dominant place in England parallel to that of Metallgesellschaft in Germany. Both firms had strong associations with the American Metal Company in New York. Because of its connections with the German firm, the British Merton company was liquidated during World War I and reorganized as two separate firms under the names of H. Gardener and Co. Ltd. and the British Metal Corporation. Both H. Gardener and Co. and the British Metal Corporation were later incorporated into a new company, the Amalgamated Metal Corporation Ltd. Ralph Merton's son, WILLIAM (WILHELM) MERTON (1848–1916), who was born in Frankfurt, became the head of the Metallgesellschaft in Frankfurt. A generous philanthropist, he founded the Academy for Social and Commercial Sciences which later formed the basis of the University of Frankfurt in Frankfurt and supported the institution for many years. Under Hitler, the Merton family lost control of the Metallgesellschaft and took refuge in England. A relative, SIR THOMAS RALPH MERTON (1888–1969), was professor of spectroscopy at Oxford University. He made notable contributions to the development of the spectroscope, and, significantly, to the modern radar screen, the latter credited with helping Britain win the Battle of Britain in 1940. He was treasurer of the Royal Society from 1939 to 1956 and was knighted in 1944. In 1958 he was awarded the Rumford Medal of the Royal Society.
P.H. Emden, Jews of Britain (1943), index; P. Stein, Wilhelm Merton (1917); C. Fuerstenberg, Lebensgeschichte eines deutschen Bankiers (1931). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: ODNB online for Sir Thomas Ralph Merton.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.