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Thomas Graham,
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distinction, and took his degree as Master of Arts. His father had designed him for the ministry, and this was the period when he was expected to enter the divinity hall. But Thomas Graham had marked out for himself a different course. He had already, for one session, been in the class and laboratory of Dr. Thomas Thomson, an enthusiast in natural research. This aroused in him the dormant faculty and fascination for the study of science. He chose his path with a calm persistency that rose above all the family influences brought to bear upon him. Strangely enough, although his father himself had refused to become a minister at the dictation of his father, yet he was not disposed to permit his son to follow the bent of his own mind. Father and son were like each other, and firm in their resolutions. Their controversy on the subject made Thomas’ residence in Glasgow unpleasant. In 1824 he went to Edinburgh University. The prosperous burgher, on visiting his son there, some months after, was amazed on finding his room filled with pots and pans, crucibles and blowpipes, instead of theological books. In most cases, young people are better to pursue the course recommended by their fathers, but in this case the son made the better choice. Thomas Graham, with his cool temperament and reserved habit, would have been an indifferent preacher, but he had all the qualities that exalted him into the first order as a man of science.

He studied in Edinburgh under Dr. Hope (1824-27), and while here, published his earliest chemical paper when only twenty-one years of age.

He returned from Edinburgh in 1827, when twenty-two. We again mark his independence of spirit. Since he had adopted his profession in opposition to his father’s wishes, he resolved to maintain himself. He opened classes for mathematics in Balmano Street, which were attended, and the results in all respects good. But his favourite branch was not neglected. He was soon able to open a small laboratory for instruction in chemistry. He also undertook the analyses of the varied materials submitted by the merchants and manufacturers of the city. He so speedily made a reputation that his father had to acknowledge that after all “Tom kent best what he was fit for.” The worthy gentleman now came forward to his assistance. But the son scarcely needed it. In 1829, he was appointed lecturer on chemistry in the Glasgow Mechanics Institute, then in North Hanover Street, not far from the spot where his statue stands, and now merged in the Technical School. His further promotion was rapid. In the year following he was elected to succeed Dr. Ure, as professor of chemistry, in the Andersonian University. This position gave him, not only a better income, but better opportunities for prosecuting his researches. So greatly pleased was the merchant-father with his son’s success in being a veritable professor at the early age of 25, that he instituted a prize of ten guineas, to be given to the student of the class who should do the best work during the session. Graham continued in the chair for seven years, steadily growing in power and reputation. The joy of his success was damped by the loss of his mother at this time. For several years in this class there was the association of four young men who have all become famous. There was first the youthful professor; there was second a pupil older than himself who walked in from Blantyre — David Livingstone; and there was third, another dark and wiry lad who had come in from Kirk Street, Calton, where his father was a joiner — James Young, latterly of Kell; the fourth was Lyon Playfair, whose residence was on the south side of George Square. The four became friends for life.


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