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Thomas Graham (1805-1869)

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Professor Thomas Graham (1805-1869), FRSE, FRS, the last executive officer to hold the title of "Master of the Mint".

1805 Born in Glasgow, son of James Graham (1776–1842), a prosperous Glasgow merchant and manufacturer of light woven fabrics for the West Indies, and his wife, Margaret (1775–1830), née Paterson.

1818 At the age of thirteen he attended Glasgow University to study arts.

1823/4 Studied chemistry under Thomas Thomson, and natural philosophy under William Meikleham.

1824 Graham graduated MA and remained at Glasgow University for a further two years.

1826 Began studying medicine at Edinburgh. He worked in the Edinburgh University chemical laboratory under his friend G. D. Longstaff.

1828 he became a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and he deputized for the extramural chemistry lecturer, Edward Turner.

Returned to Glasgow in November 1828 and supported himself by teaching mathematics extramurally.

1829 he started to offer classes in practical chemistry. With the availability of a laboratory he was able to investigate gaseous diffusion, platinum catalysis, the glow of phosphorus, and the action of charcoal on solutions. He also gave evening lectures on chemistry and mechanics at the Glasgow Mechanics' Institution.

1830 elected a member of the faculty and became professor of chemistry at Anderson's Institution soon after.

1831 Advanced what became known as "Graham's Law" that for a gas, at constant pressure, the rate of diffusion was inversely proportional to the square root of its density.

1833 Turner read Graham's paper on the different roles of water in compounds to the Royal Society of London

1837 Appointed professor of chemistry at University College, London.

1838 Became a fellow of the Royal Society of London

1841-43 First president of the Chemical Society. [1]

From 1842 he acted as unofficial chemical adviser to the government, analysing tobacco for possible adulteration, on malt duty, ventilation of parliament, casting iron guns, disinfectants, sugar refining, London's water supply, chemistry at the Great Exhibition, the fire on the steamship Amazon, the original gravity of beer, coffee adulteration, methylated spirit, and Dundonald's Crimean War plan.

Also worked on osmosis, diffusion, and generally was a pioneer in physical chemistry.

From 1851 Graham was a non-resident scientific assayer of silver and gold for the Royal Mint

1855 Appointed master of the Royal Mint; resigned his chair at University College.

By 1858 he had made substantial savings in the coinage of silver and gold. He then replaced copper coins by harder bronze coins.

From November 1860 his brother John assisted with the distribution of bronze coins and in 1866 he became chief coiner.

1867 Was the first to publish on the occlusion of gases by metals

1869 Died in London

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Biography of Thomas Graham, ODNB