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Peter Hart

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Peter Hart (1834-1897) of Tennants (Lancashire)

1834 Born in Orford, Warrington, the son of William Hart and his wife Betty Eliza Wood

1860 Married in Manchester Cathedral to Mary Bozson

1863 Birth of son George Hart

1891 Living at Grousmoor, Openshaw, Lancs: Peter Hart (age 56 born Orford, Warrington), Manager of Chemical Works. With his wife Amy Hart (age 28 born Manchester) and their three children; George Hart (age 27 born Manchester), Technical Chemist; William B. Hart (age 26 born Manchester), Technical Chemist; and Bertram Hart (age 23 born Manchester), Technical Chemist. One servant.[1]

Obituary Notice of PETER HART by H. GRIMSHAW, F.C.S.[2]

PETER HART was born at Orford, near Warrington, on June 6th, 1834. In the village school he received a plain education, and he there came under the notice of Mr. William Beamont, first Mayor of Warrington, a well-known solicitor and antiquarian and, what was then rare, an enthusiastic educationalist.

Through this gentleman, Peter Hart, at the age of 10, obtained a situation in a solicitor's office at Tarporley, and he was subsequently employed in Mr. Beamont’s own office at Warrington.

In the interval between these periods, young Hart had been for a short time at the Chemical Works of Messrs. Tennants, at Ardwick, Manchester, where his father, William Hart, assisted Mr. James Young, F.R.S., in the management. In 1849, he finally relinquished law and returned to the Chemical Works. After spending a short time in the office he was, to his intense satisfaction, drafted into the laboratory.

He took up chemistry enthusiastically and attended night classes at the old Mechanics’ Institute, in Cooper Street, under Dr. Allen, and read diligently the chemical books in the library attached to Tennants’ laboratory. “Graham," “Turner," and “Brande” were his oracles, and he often said in after life that if he did not acquire as much from them as he ought, he found out at least “how little he knew and how much there was to be known." The innate modesty of the man comes out in this typical expression.

In 1847 and the following years, came Young’s great discovery of the shale oil process, experiments in which were conducted at Ardwick. In connection with this, in 1851, it was necessary to make some tons of solid caustic soda from liquid caustic. This is probably the earliest record of the manufacture of solid caustic soda in England. William Gossage was at this time experimenting (upon the concentration of vitriol) at the Ardwick works, and subsequently devoting his attention to the manufacture of caustic soda, took out his well-known patent in 1853.

In the year 1852, Young left Messrs. Tennants’ to exploit his shale oil process, and Peter Hart became chemist to the works, at the age of eighteen, acting under his father who became manager.

The next year he published his first original paper “On a new method of estimating Tin in Native Peroxide of Tin Ore,” in a periodical called The Chemist.

The tin compounds in those days were the mordants on which the dyers and printers mainly relied, the aniline colours not having been yet invented, the animal and vegetable kingdoms supplied the basis of their colours. Numerous and mysterious were the names under which tin mordants were sold, “oxymuriate,” “sulphomuriate,” “purple spirits,” “blue spirits," “scarlet spirits,” “double muriate," and so on, there being in many cases a good deal more difference in the name than in the chemical composition of the substance.

About this time, in connection with this subject, he carried out important technical improvements in the manufacture of stannate of soda.

From this time forward Peter Hart was constantly engaged in original work of one kind or another, either in elaborating and improving the processes of manufacture carried on in the chemical works of Messrs. Tennants and elsewhere, or in improving or originating methods of analysis.

It is characteristic of him that, although his original papers are fairly numerous, yet the amount of work which he did in following out his ideas was very great indeed compared with the length of his communications. His results were presented complete and fully digested, a paper of a few pages representing generally months of work and perhaps the study of a year or two.

His genius was essentially practical and simple. Unnecessary elaboration was a 'bete noir' to him. Unless he had satisfied himself beyond all possibility of doubt, and had actually used a new method of analysis continuously, and satisfactorily, he was very diffident about troubling the chemical world with it.

His method for the estimation of chromium in chrome ore is given by Fresenius in the fourth edition of his Quantitative Analysis. It consists in successive fusion with borax, carbonate of sodium, and nitrate of potassium, and was subsequently modified by Dittmar.

In 1860, when the noted Dictionary of Applied Chemistry was published, he, at the request of Sheridan Muspratt, wrote the article on “Sulphuric Acid Manufacture,” a sufficient testimony to the fact that he was recognized as one of the leading technologists in his own subjects. In connection with the manufacture of sulphuric acid, in 1865 he devised an apparatus for the rapid determination of sulphur dioxide in chamber gases. In 1858, a description of similar apparatus was given by F. Reisch, but it was more complicated and less suitable for removal from place to place. Davis devised an apparatus similar to that of Hart at a later date.

Peter Hart’s connection with this Society began in 1863, when he was elected a member. He communicated several papers to the Society, the first being in 1867 “On the occurrence of Sulphocyanates in Gas Mains,” in which was pointed out the great distance from the source at which this substance is often found in the mains and pipes, often at the distance of a mile. A year later he patented a method for recovering the nitrous gases from vitriol chambers, but the invention of the Glover Tower superseded his idea.

The principle of the anemometer for strong or weak drafts, described by Hart at the meeting of this Society on April 5th, 1870, has received recognition from Dr. Hobson, in The Chief Alkali Inspector’s Report for that year, and from other authorities, although Swan in the Transactions of the Newcastle Chemical Society subsequently, in 1871, published an account of an anemometer of his own construction, which involves the same principle as that of Hart.

Original papers were communicated to this Society at intervals until he joined the Society of Chemical Industry, since then most of his papers have been read before the latter Society, which is more directly concerned with his province of technology.

In 1866, a serious accident happened at Messrs. Tennants’ works to Mr. Hart, senior, which resulted in his death, and the management and full control of the works then devolved on his son Peter. Since the death of the subject of this memoir one of his sons again occupies a similar post, so that three generations of the same name have now been associated with these works.

In 1885, the situation of the Ardwick works of Messrs. Tennants had, by the growth of the city, become too confined, and their removal to the present site in Clayton threw upon Peter Hart the duty of the entire reconstruction of a large modem chemical works. It is needless to say that under his capable superintendence a fine, well equipped establishment was speedily evolved.

In 1887, in connection with the concentration of sulphuric acid he made some very interesting and valuable researches into the protective action of a coating of gold on the platinum vessels used in this process. Heraeus carried this out practically in 1891. (Jour. Soc. Client, Ind., 1891, pp. 460, 773). He was one of the earliest members of the Society of Chemical Industry when it was established in Manchester, and after being a member of the Committee for many years, was elected Vice-Chairman of the Manchester Section in 1897.

Being educated in the old school of chemistry, Peter Hart grew up under the old system of notation and nomenclature, and remained wedded to them. He always “thought” in the grain-decem-Fahrenheit system and the old equivalents, though of course his recent papers were translated before publication into the modern system.

After about 50 years of work, his health began to fail in the early part of 1897, and, suffering a relapse in May, he died on the 30th of that month at his residence Gransmoor, Fairfield.

Apart from the loss to technical and practical chemistry, the removal of Peter Hart from the midst of those who knew him, came as the loss of a friend and comrade, and left a blank which will not soon be filled. The bright geniality of his presence, his never failing quaint humour, the direct simplicity and kindliness of his nature, secured affection for him where many are fated to be content with respect.

Appearances he scorned, the inner nature of a man was what appealed to his sympathy, and opinion and advice were tendered as freely as they were received by him. “I have scarcely known anyone who could not teach me something” he once remarked to the writer of this memoir, and this was typical of his attitude to the youngest student of science as to her most famous veteran.

The writer acknowledges gratefully the value of the assistance of Mr. Peter Hart’s sons in revising this brief memoir.

A list of published papers is appended. (not transcribed from the original)

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1891 Census
  2. Memoirs and Proceedings of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society 1897-8