Tracing your Scottish Ancestry

Mackintosh's Masterwork

Thomas Graham,
page 4 of 7

competent chemists and stated that, not caring for such work, to prevent its coining to him he was obliged to charge a fee of £100. By return of post he got a cheque for £200 accompanied by an earnest appeal to do an act of justice and allay a groundless panic. This appeal was irresistible. Dr. Hoffman of the College of Chemistry was called in and received half the fee. The analysis made on their joint authority was published far and wide, and the panic was allayed. Independently altogether of the analysis, it was shown how senseless and absurd was the panic. Every part of the process was carried on in the most open manner, rendering fraud and concealment impossible. The yearly ‘output’ would require 16,448 ounces of strychnine to give the bitter flavour, the cost of which would be 13,158, while at the same time not more than 1000 ounces were made all the world over.”

All through life he retained the love of the old home, and maintained close intercourse with his relatives. In 1842 his father, who had acquired property in Glasgow and the estate of Ballewan, near Strathblane, died intestate, leaving ample means to be divided among his children. Thomas, as the eldest son, became the laird of Ballewan. A portion of this he made over to his sister, Mrs. Reid, on which Dummullen house now stands.

While in the University of London he founded the Chemical Society, and became its first president. A few years later he founded the Cavendish Society, which has published a long series of works — many of them translations — of great value. So much was his work appreciated in connection with this society that he was made perpetual president.

In the year 1854 he was called into a higher position. Sir John Herschel resigned his position as Master of the Mint. Graham was soon designated his successor. He then became one of the most distinguished successors of Sir Isaac Newton, many of whose studies — especially those upon the atom — he had carried forward to definite results. Hoffman, who then occupied an official position at the Mint, said, “The new director of the Mint gave proof of a foresight, of a knowledge of fact, of energy, bringing with himself to the necessities of the case a sternness which astonished, which electrified, especially certain savants of the establishment. The Mint had too long been like many of the public establishments, the refuge of nepotism and the sphere of official tradition. His reforms were resisted, but he held on the even tenor of his way, conscious of a pure aim, with a heroic devotion to duty.” Years passed before he was able to overcome these difficulties and have the leisure required for his well-directed researches. The temptations of his exalted position were overcome with the same ease by which he had in earlier life struggled successfully. His labour was incessant, and fairly divided between the duties of his post and the pursuit of those difficult scientific problems he had undertaken to solve. His personal wants were few and simple. He occupied the modest home into which he had entered on coming to London. He allowed little time to the relations of private life. An occasional excursion to visit his relatives, a run to Ballewan to recruit amid the bracing air around the Campsie Fell, or retreat to some of the nearer sanatoriums, were the only indulgences he allowed himself. No wonder that a frame, never robust, was worn out too soon. In 1869 he was found by a friend, Dr. Angus Smith, working away while seriously suffering. Warned and advised, he went down to Malvern. Here his health was so far re-established that he was enabled to go on to his Stirlingshire estate.


:: Previous Page :: Next Page ::

Books & articles appearing here are modified adaptations
from a private collection of vintage books & magazines.
Reproduction of these pages is prohibited without written permission. © Laurel O'Donnell, 1996-2006.