The Info List - William Hyde Wollaston

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William Hyde Wollaston
William Hyde Wollaston
PRS (/ˈwʊləstən/; 6 August 1766 – 22 December 1828) was an English chemist and physicist who is famous for discovering the chemical elements palladium and rhodium. He also developed a way to process platinum ore into malleable ingots.[1]


1 Biography 2 Work 3 Honours and awards 4 Legacy 5 Publications 6 See also 7 References 8 Further reading 9 External links

Biography[edit] Wollaston was born in East Dereham, Norfolk, the son of the priest-astronomer Francis Wollaston (1737–1815) and his wife Althea Hyde. The family, which included 17 children, was financially well-off and were part of an intellectually stimulating environment. Wollaston was educated at Charterhouse School
Charterhouse School
and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge: in 1793 he obtained a doctorate in medicine from Cambridge University, and was a fellow of his college from 1787 to 1828.[1] He worked as a physician in rural areas between 1793 and 1797, then moved to London.[1] During his studies, Wollaston had become interested in chemistry, crystallography, metallurgy and physics. In 1800, after he had received a large sum of money from one of his older brothers, he left medicine. He concentrated on pursuing his interests in chemistry and other subjects outside his trained vocation. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society
Fellow of the Royal Society
in 1793, where he became an influential member. He served as president in 1820.[1] In 1822 he was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[2] Wollaston never married. He died in London
in 1828 and was buried in Chislehurst, England.[1][3] Work[edit] After having established a partnership with Smithson Tennant
Smithson Tennant
in 1800 in order to produce and sell chemical products, Wollaston became wealthy by developing the first physico-chemical method for processing platinum ore in practical quantities. He held the details of the process secret until near his death and made huge profits for about 20 years by being the only supplier in England of the product which had many of the same qualities as gold, but was much cheaper.[1] Chemical analysis related to the process of purifying platinum led Wollaston to discover the elements palladium (symbol Pd) in 1802 and rhodium (symbol Rh) in 1804.[1] Anders Gustav Ekeberg discovered tantalum in 1802; however, Wollaston declared it was identical with niobium (then known as columbium). Later Heinrich Rose
Heinrich Rose
proved in 1846 that columbium and tantalum were indeed different elements and he renamed columbium "niobium". (Niobium and tantalum, being in the same periodic group, are chemically similar.) The mineral wollastonite was later named after Wollaston for his contributions to crystallography and mineral analysis.[1] Wollaston also performed important work in electricity. In 1801, he performed an experiment showing that the electricity from friction was identical to that produced by voltaic piles.[4] During the last years of his life he performed electrical experiments, which resulted in his accidental discovery of electromagnetic induction 10 years prior to Michael Faraday, preceding the eventual design of the electric motor: Faraday constructed the first working electric motor and published his results without acknowledging Wollaston's previous work. Wollaston's demonstration of a motor to the Royal Society
Royal Society
had failed, however, but nonetheless his prior work was acknowledged by Humphry Davy
Humphry Davy
in the same paper which lauded Faraday's "ingenious" experiments.[5] Wollaston also invented a battery that allowed the zinc plates in the battery to be raised out of the acid, so that the zinc would not be dissolved as quickly as it would if it were in the battery all the time. His optical work was important as well, where he is remembered for his observations of dark Fraunhofer lines
Fraunhofer lines
in the solar spectrum (1802),[6][7] which eventually led to the discovery of the elements in the Sun. He invented the camera lucida (1807) which contained the Wollaston prism (the four-sided optics of which were first described basically by Kepler)[8] and the reflecting goniometer (1809). He also developed the first lens specifically for camera lens, called the meniscus lens, in 1812. The lens was designed to improve the image projected by the camera obscura. By changing the shape of the lens, Wollaston was able to project a flatter image, eliminating much of the distortion that was a problem with many of that day's biconvex lenses. Wollaston also devised a cryophorus, "a glass container containing liquid water and water vapor. It is used in physics courses to demonstrate rapid freezing by evaporation."[9] He used his Bakerian lecture in 1805, On the Force of Percussion, to defend Gottfried Leibniz's principle of vis viva, an early formulation of the conservation of energy. Wollaston's attempt to demonstrate the presence of glucose in the blood serum of diabetics was unsuccessful due to the limited means of detection available to him. His 1811 paper "On the non-existence of sugar in the blood of persons labouring under diabetes mellitus"[10] concluded that sugar must travel via lymphatic channels from the stomach directly to the kidneys, without entering the bloodstream. Wollaston supported this theory by referring to the thesis of a young medical student at Edinburgh, Charles Darwin (1758–1778), "Experiments establishing a criterion between mucaginous and purulent matter. And an account of the retrograde motions of the absorbent vessels of animal bodies in some diseases."[11] This Charles Darwin was the eldest son of Erasmus Darwin
Erasmus Darwin
and not his more famous nephew, Charles Robert Darwin. Wollaston prophetically foretold that if once an accurate knowledge were gained of the relative weights of elementary atoms, philosophers would not rest satisfied with the determination of mere numbers, but would have to gain a geometrical conception of how the elementary particles were placed in space. Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff's La Chimie dans l'Espace was the first practical realisation of this prophecy.[12] Wollaston was part of a royal commission that recommended adoption of the imperial gallon in 1814. He served on the government's Board of Longitude between 1818 and 1828[1] and was part of royal commission that opposed adoption of the metric system (1819).[13] Wollaston was too ill to deliver his final Bakerian lecture in 1828 and dictated it to Henry Warburton
Henry Warburton
who read it on 20 November. Honours and awards[edit]

Honours and awards

Fellow of the Royal Society, 1793.

Secretary, 1804–1816. President, briefly in 1820. Vice-president, 1820–1828 Copley Medal, 1802 Royal Medal, 1828. Croonian lecture, 1809 Bakerian Lecture, 1802, 1805, 1812, 1828

Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 1813.

Legacy[edit] The following have been named in his honour:

Wollaston Medal

List of Wollaston Medal
Wollaston Medal

Wollaston, a lunar impact crater Wollaston Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
Saskatchewan, Canada
a 2,681 square kilometre (1,035 sq mi) freshwater lake Wollaston Islands, Chile
is named for him Wollastonite, a chain silicate mineral

It has been mentioned that Wollaston has not received the renown which should complement his historical standing in world of science: his contemporaries Thomas Young, Humphry Davy
Humphry Davy
and John Dalton
John Dalton
have become far better-known. Different reasons for this have been suggested, including that Wollaston himself was not systematic or conventional in presenting his discoveries, even publishing anonymously (initially) in the case of Palladium. Also, and perhaps more importantly for his modern legacy, privately held papers of his were inaccessible, and that his notebooks went missing shortly after his death and remained so for over a century; these were finally collated in the late 1960s at Cambridge University and the first comprehensive biography was completed by Melvyn Usselman in 2015, after over 30 years' research.[14][15] Publications[edit]

On the force of percussion, 1805 Wollaston, William Hyde (1808). "On Super-Acid and Sub-Acid Salts". Phil. Trans. 98: 96–102. doi:10.1098/rstl.1808.0006. 

See also[edit]

Coddington magnifier History of electrochemistry


^ a b c d e f g h i Melvyn C. Usselman: William Hyde Wollaston Encyclopædia Britannica, retrieved 31 March 2013 ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter W" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 7 August 2014.  ^ William Hyde Wollaston
William Hyde Wollaston
at Find a Grave ^ From "Telegraphic journal: a weekly record of electrical and scientific progress" (1864, Truscott, Son & Simmons): Dr. Wollaston, in 1801, used ordinary friction electricity to decompose water by means of his guarded poles. ... he was thus able to transmit the power of the electrical machine as a continuous current. ^ Davy, H Humphry (1823). "On a New Phenomenon of Electro-Magnetism" (PDF). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society
Royal Society
of London. London. Retrieved 9 December 2017.  ^ William Hyde Wollaston
William Hyde Wollaston
(1802) "A method of examining refractive and dispersive powers, by prismatic reflection," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 92: 365–380; see especially p. 378. ^ OpenStax Astronomy, "Spectroscopy in Astronomy". OpenStax CNX. Sep 29, 2016 http://cnx.org/contents/1f92a120-370a-4547-b14e-a3df3ce6f083@3 ^ Hammond, John; Austin, Jill (1987). The camera lucida in art and science. Taylor & Francis. p. 16.  ^ Smith, B A (1980). "Wollaston's cryophosphorus-precursor of the heat pipe". Physics
Education. 15 (5): 310. Bibcode:1980PhyEd..15..310S. doi:10.1088/0031-9120/15/5/006.  ^ Wollaston, W. H. (1811). "On the non-existence of sugar in the blood of persons labouring under diabetes mellitus". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 101: 96–105. doi:10.1098/rstl.1811.0006.  ^ "Charles Darwin and the history of the early use of digitalis". Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine. 10 (2): 496–506. 1934.  ^ John Theodore Merz, A History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century (1903) Vol. 1 ^ Martini, Albert (2014). The Renaissance of Science: The Story of the Atom and Chemistry. Florida: Maitland.  ^ Levitt, Theresa (2016). "Isis: A journal of the History of Science Society". Isis. 107: 637–638. doi:10.1086/688432. Retrieved 5 December 2017.  ^ Usselman, Melvyn C. (1978). "The Platinum
Notebooks of William Hyde Wollaston". Platinum
Metals Review. 22: 100. 

Royal Society
Royal Society
Library and Archive catalogue[permanent dead link]

Further reading[edit]

"Wollaston, William Hyde (WLSN782WH)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.  Pearson, Tilmon H.; Ihde, Aaron J. (1951). " Chemistry
and the Spectrum Before Bunsen and Kirchhoff". Journal of Chemical Education. 28 (5): 267–271. Bibcode:1951JChEd..28..267P. doi:10.1021/ed028p267.  Hinde, P. T. (1966). "William Hyde Wollaston: The Man and His "Equivalents"". Journal of Chemical Education. 243 (12): 673–676. Bibcode:1966JChEd..43..673H. doi:10.1021/ed043p673.  Kipnis, Alexander. (1993) "The Man Who Discovered Rhodium". Rhodium Express. No 0: 30–34; "http://sites.google.com/site/rhodiumexpress/ Discovery of Rhodium]". Loc. cit. No 1: 30–34. ISSN 0869-7876 Rouse Ball, Walter William (2009). A History of the Study of Mathematics at Cambridge University. Cambridge University Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-1-108-00207-3.  Usselman, Melvyn C. (2015). Pure Intelligence: The Life of William Hyde Wollaston. University of Chicago Press. p. 424. ISBN 978-0-226-24573-7. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to William Hyde Wollaston.

and Palladium: Events Surrounding Their Discoveries  "Wollaston, William Hyde". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.  Poliakoff, Martyn. "Palladium". The Periodic Table of Videos. University of Nottingham. 

v t e

Copley Medallists (1801–1850)

Astley Cooper
Astley Cooper
(1801) William Hyde Wollaston
William Hyde Wollaston
(1802) Richard Chenevix (1803) Smithson Tennant
Smithson Tennant
(1804) Humphry Davy
Humphry Davy
(1805) Thomas Andrew Knight
Thomas Andrew Knight
(1806) Everard Home
Everard Home
(1807) William Henry (1808) Edward Troughton
Edward Troughton
(1809) Benjamin Collins Brodie (1811) William Thomas Brande
William Thomas Brande
(1813) James Ivory (1814) David Brewster
David Brewster
(1815) Henry Kater
Henry Kater
(1817) Robert Seppings
Robert Seppings
(1818) Hans Christian Ørsted
Hans Christian Ørsted
(1820) Edward Sabine
Edward Sabine
/ John Herschel
John Herschel
(1821) William Buckland
William Buckland
(1822) John Pond (1823) John Brinkley (1824) François Arago
François Arago
/ Peter Barlow (1825) James South (1826) William Prout
William Prout
/ Henry Foster (1827) George Biddell Airy
George Biddell Airy
(1831) Michael Faraday
Michael Faraday
/ Siméon Denis Poisson
Siméon Denis Poisson
(1832) Giovanni Antonio Amedeo Plana
Giovanni Antonio Amedeo Plana
(1834) William Snow Harris
William Snow Harris
(1835) Jöns Jacob Berzelius
Jöns Jacob Berzelius
/ Francis Kiernan (1836) Antoine César Becquerel
Antoine César Becquerel
/ John Frederic Daniell
John Frederic Daniell
(1837) Carl Friedrich Gauss
Carl Friedrich Gauss
/ Michael Faraday
Michael Faraday
(1838) Robert Brown (1839) Justus von Liebig
Justus von Liebig
/ Jacques Charles François Sturm
Jacques Charles François Sturm
(1840) Georg Ohm
Georg Ohm
(1841) James MacCullagh
James MacCullagh
(1842) Jean-Baptiste Dumas
Jean-Baptiste Dumas
(1843) Carlo Matteucci (1844) Theodor Schwann
Theodor Schwann
(1845) Urbain Le Verrier
Urbain Le Verrier
(1846) John Herschel
John Herschel
(1847) John Couch Adams
John Couch Adams
(1848) Roderick Murchison
Roderick Murchison
(1849) Peter Andreas Hansen
Peter Andreas Hansen

v t e

Presidents of the Royal Society

17th century

Viscount Brouncker (1662) Joseph Williamson (1677) Christopher Wren
Christopher Wren
(1680) John Hoskyns (1682) Cyril Wyche
Cyril Wyche
(1683) Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys
(1684) Earl of Carbery (1686) Earl of Pembroke (1689) Robert Southwell (1690) Charles Montagu (1695) Lord Somers (1698)

18th century

Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
(1703) Hans Sloane
Hans Sloane
(1727) Martin Folkes
Martin Folkes
(1741) Earl of Macclesfield (1752) Earl of Morton (1764) James Burrow
James Burrow
(1768) James West (1768) James Burrow
James Burrow
(1772) John Pringle
John Pringle
(1772) Joseph Banks
Joseph Banks

19th century

William Hyde Wollaston
William Hyde Wollaston
(1820) Humphry Davy
Humphry Davy
(1820) Davies Gilbert
Davies Gilbert
(1827) Duke of Sussex (1830) Marquess of Northampton (1838) Earl of Rosse (1848) Lord Wrottesley (1854) Benjamin Collins Brodie (1858) Edward Sabine
Edward Sabine
(1861) George Biddell Airy
George Biddell Airy
(1871) Joseph Dalton Hooker
Joseph Dalton Hooker
(1873) William Spottiswoode
William Spottiswoode
(1878) Thomas Henry Huxley
Thomas Henry Huxley
(1883) George Gabriel Stokes (1885) William Thomson (1890) Joseph Lister
Joseph Lister

20th century

William Huggins
William Huggins
(1900) Lord Rayleigh (1905) Archibald Geikie
Archibald Geikie
(1908) William Crookes
William Crookes
(1913) J. J. Thomson
J. J. Thomson
(1915) Charles Scott Sherrington
Charles Scott Sherrington
(1920) Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford
(1925) Frederick Gowland Hopkins
Frederick Gowland Hopkins
(1930) William Henry Bragg
William Henry Bragg
(1935) Henry Hallett Dale
Henry Hallett Dale
(1940) Robert Robinson (1945) Edgar Adrian (1950) Cyril Norman Hinshelwood
Cyril Norman Hinshelwood
(1955) Howard Florey
Howard Florey
(1960) Patrick Blackett (1965) Alan Lloyd Hodgkin
Alan Lloyd Hodgkin
(1970) Lord Todd (1975) Andrew Huxley
Andrew Huxley
(1980) George Porter
George Porter
(1985) Sir Michael Atiyah
Michael Atiyah
(1990) Sir Aaron Klug
Aaron Klug

21st century

Robert May (2000) Martin Rees (2005) Sir Paul Nurse
Paul Nurse
(2010) Sir Venkatraman Ramakrishnan
Venkatraman Ramakrishnan

v t e

Wollaston family tree

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William Wollaston priest, master and scholar (1659–1724)

Catherine Charlton (1670–1720)

John Francis Fauquier bank director (1672–1726)

Elizabeth Chamberlayne (1676–1748)

Francis Wollaston scientist (1694–1774)

Mary Fauquier (1702–1773)

Francis Fauquier governor (1703–1768)

Elizabeth Fauquier (1706–1764)

William Wollaston MP (1693–1764)

William Wollaston army colonel and MP (1731–1797)

Frederick Wollaston (1735–1801)

Priscilla Ottley (1740–1819)

William Heberden physician (1710–1801)

Mary Wollaston (1730–1813)

Francis Wollaston priest and astronomer (1731–1815)

Althea Hyde (1738–1798)

Charlton Wollaston physician (1733–1764)

George Wollaston priest (1738–1826)

Thomas Heberden priest (1754–1843)

Althea Hyde Wollaston (1760–1785)

Francis John Hyde Wollaston natural philosophy professor (1762–1823)

George Hyde Wollaston (1765–1841)

Mary Anne Luard (1774–1817)

William Hyde Wollaston chemist and physicist (1766–1828)

Henry John Wollaston (1770–1833)

Louisa Symons (1784–1833)

Alexander Luard Wollaston (1805–1874)

Susannah Charlotte Morris (1807–1894)

Henrietta Wollaston (1807–1873)

George Pollock army field-marshal and baronet (1786– 1872)

Frances Buchanan (1786–1827)

Henry Septimus Hyde Wollaston (1776–1867)

Mary Ann Blanckenhagen (1778–1805)

George Hyde Wollaston (1844–1926)

Sarah Constance Richmond (1847–1931)

Charles Buchanan Wollaston priest (1816–1887)

Eleanor Reynolds (1824–1891)

Thomas Vernon Wollaston entomologist and malacologist (1822–1878)

Julia Adye Catharine Buchanan (1816–1910)

George Buchanan Wollaston architect and botanist (1814–1899)

Henry Francis Wollaston (1803–1876)

Elizabeth Rumsey Naylor (1816–1879)

Alexander Richmond Wollaston surgeon and explorer (1875–1930)

Stanley George Buchanan Wollaston (1848–1923)

Caroline Elizabeth Harper (1854–1898)

Charles Henry Reynolds Wollaston footballer (1849–1926)

Arthur Naylor Wollaston civil servant and author (1842–1922)

Caroline Marianne Woods (1844–1902)

Herbert Arthur Buchanan Wollaston navy rear-admiral (1878–1975)

Margaret Ermyntrude Buchanan Wollaston (1885–1944)

Charles Earle Raven theology professor (1885—1964)

Gerald Woods Wollaston herald (1874–1957)

John Earle Raven philosopher (1914–1980)


Source: Wollaston Family Tree

Family tree of the Wollaston family

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 67242780 LCCN: nr88002823 ISNI: 0000 0000 6304 3295 GND: 117433144 SUDOC: 084997672 BNF: cb10597731s (data) NKC: nlk20000089976 RKD: 389