Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors

Guide to Discovering Your Scottish Ancestors

Thomas Graham,
page 3 of 7

Livingstone left for the work of the London Missionary Society in Africa; Thomas Graham became Master of the Mint in London, and James Young for a time acted as his assistant there, and left to establish the great paraffin works at West Calder and other places; Sir Lyon Playfair represented St. Andrews and Edinburgh Universities in the House of Commons, and has won a national recognition for the prominent part he has taken in the social and scientific progress of the country. More than fifty years have passed, and these four have been distinguished above most of their countrymen in different fields. Sir Lyon Playfair is still among us, vigorous as ever, but the other three have passed away, and are now represented in George Square, near the seat of their former labours. There are here the statues of Livingstone and Graham — and although there, is no statue of James Young, yet it is to be remembered that these two have been erected by their old friend, the Laird of Kelly.

In the Andersonian Graham commenced that long series of experiments on diffusion with which his name will ever be associated, and which are sketched out in his “Elements of Chemistry.” Some of his most valuable papers were written here. There were two of special importance, through which he was recognised as belonging, to the first rank of European chemists. In 1834 be received for one of these the Keith Medal of the. Royal Society in Edinburgh — the highest honour it can bestow, and by another, in 1836 he gained the medal of the Royal Society.

A broader sphere and better opportunities now opened up to him. He was comparatively young — only 32 ÿ but his reputation was established. In 1837 he was called to succeed Turner in the Chair of Chemistry in the University of London. James Young went with his chief, and continued to be his assistant in London. The two wrought well together and entered jointly into many original researches. Young showed scarcely less faculty for the work than the master and became possessed of many secrets of the very greatest value. By one of these — the extracting of oil from mineral — he was enabled not only to amass a fortune, but also to show how the heaps of refuse may be utilized if the present supplies of coal should fail. In his new sphere Graham was as successful as in Glasgow. The lectures were well attended. “He had neither eloquence nor finish of diction — but he had what is much more important in a teacher of, science, clearness and precision of ideas, a fine discernment of the sequence and order of facts, and a deep insight into all the varied details of his subject.” Honours unsought were thrust upon him. He was invited to be a corresponding member of the French Academy and of all the most important foreign societies. He also became Joint-Assayer to the Mint and was employed frequently by the Bank of England to make assays. He was adviser in all questions of law, public health, and industry, which involved chemical knowledge. As an analytical chemist he might have made a princely income. His services in this way were in great demand. But he found this work interfered with the work of original research and gave it up as far as he could. Dr. Bryce says that “the very last occasion, we believe, on which he did yield to solicitations of this kind was one in which his feelings of justice and fair play were strongly appealed to. A panic, arising from, an illnatured assertion often repeated, pervaded the public mind in regard to the bitter beer of a great brewing house. It was asserted that the bitter principle was strychnine. Conscious of innocence the head of the firm applied to Mr. Graham to make an analysis. Mr. Graham pleaded want of time, referred him to other


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