John Hall Gladstone - Encyclopedia

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JOHN HALL GLADSTONE (1827-1902), English chemist, was born at Hackney, London, on the 7th of March 1827. From childhood he showed great aptitude for science; geology was his favourite subject, but since this in his father's opinion did not afford a career of promise, he devoted himself to chemistry, which he studied under Thomas Graham at University College, London, and Liebig at Giessen, where he graduated as Ph.D. in 1847. In 1850 he became chemical lecturer at St Thomas's hospital, and three years later was elected a fellow of the Royal Society at the unusually early age of twenty-six. From 1858 to 1861 he served on the royal commission on lighthouses, and from 1864 to 1868 was a member of the war office committee on gun-cotton. From 1874 to 1877 he was Fullerian professor of chemistry at the Royal Institution, in 1874 he was chosen first president of the Physical Society, and in1877-1879he was president of the Chemical Society. In 1897 the Royal Society recognized his fifty years of scientific work by awarding him the Davy medal. Dr Gladstone's researches were large in number and wide in range, dealing to a great extent with problems that lie on the border-line between physics and chemistry. Thus a number of his inquiries, and those not the least important, were partly chemical, partly optical. He determined the optical constants of hundreds of substances, with the object of discovering whether any of the elements possesses more than one atomic refraction. Again, he investigated the connexion between the optical behaviour, density and chemical composition of ethereal oils, and the relation between molecular magnetic rotation and the refraction and dispersion of nitrogenous compounds. So early as 1856 he showed the importance of the spectroscope in chemical research, and he was one of the first to notice that the Fraunhofer spectrum at sunrise and sunset differs from that at midday, his conclusion being that the earth's atmosphere must be responsible for many of its absorption lines, which indeed were subsequently traced to the oxygen and water-vapour in the air. Another portion of his work was of an electro-chemical character. His studies, with Alfred Tribe (1840-1885) and W. Hibbert, in the chemistry of the storage battery, have added largely to our knowledge, while the "copper-zinc couple," with which his name is associated together with that of Tribe, among other things, afforded a simple means of preparing certain organo-metallic compounds, and thus promoted research in branches of organic chemistry where those bodies are especially useful. Mention may also be made of his work on phosphorus, on explosive substances, such as iodide of nitrogen, gun-cotton and the fulminates, on the influence of mass in the process of chemical reactions, and on the effect of carbonic acid on the germination of plants. Dr Gladstone always took a great interest in educational questions, and from 1873 to 1894 he was a member of the London School Board. He was also a member of the Christian Evidence Society, and an early supporter of the Young Men's Christian Association. His death occurred suddenly in London on the 6th of October 1902.

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