Richard Threlfall

Last updated

Sir Richard Threlfall Sir Richard Threlfall.jpg
Sir Richard Threlfall

Sir Richard Threlfall GBE FRS [1] (14 August 1861 – 10 July 1932) [2] was an English chemist and engineer, he established the School of Physics at the University of Sydney and made important contributions to military science during World War I. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1899, and was created KBE in 1917 and GBE in 1927.

Contents

Early life and education

Threlfall was a son of Richard Threlfall of Hollowforth, near Preston, Lancashire. He was educated at Clifton College, where he was captain of the Rugby XV, and shot in the Rifle VIII. Going on to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, he represented his University at Rugby and also at rifle shooting. He distinguished himself as a speaker at the union, and did a remarkable course, taking a first class in the first part of the natural science tripos, and a first in both physics and chemistry in the second part. [3]

He married Evelyn Agnes, daughter of John Forster-Baird, one of four sisters who all married distinguished men, one of whom was Bernhard Wise.

Science career

After graduating he was appointed a demonstrator in the Cavendish laboratory, where he did successful original research work and showed himself to be an able teacher. He also studied at Strasburg University and for a short period was a successful university coach. He lost two-thirds of his fingers in an explosion while he was carrying nitroglycerine, but in spite of this continued to be an excellent manipulator.

Professorship

In 1886 Threlfall was appointed professor of physics at the University of Sydney and founded the school. He had no building and little apparatus when he began his work, but in 1888 a physical laboratory was completed and the necessary appliances were purchased. He carried out his duties with energy and also found time for research. An early invention was the rocking microtome, an instrument which proved to be of great value in biological study. Another was a quartz thread balance which enabled him to obtain great accuracy in his comparison of values for gravity at different places. In 1896 he was president of a royal commission on the carriage of coal in ships. He obtained leave of absence in 1898 to inquire into methods of teaching electrical subjects in Europe, but on his return resigned his chair as from 31 December 1898, as circumstances had made it necessary that he should live in England.

Consulting engineer

Threlfall now became a consulting engineer and established a high reputation as an electro-chemist, combining chemical insight with the aptitude of an engineer. He joined the firm of Albright and Wilson, large producers of phosphorus, at Oldbury, and continued his connection until the time of his death. His experience in this direction was to prove of the greatest service to his country during the 1914–18 war, particularly in connexion with smoke screens and tracer bullets. In 1915 he was on the Board of Invention and Research, in 1916 he joined the advisory council for scientific and industrial research and also the munitions inventions board. In 1917 he became a member of the chemical warfare committee, and in 1918 he joined the food preservation board. An organization which carried on its work after the war, the fuel research board was joined by him in 1917 and he became its chairman in 1923.

Though his main work was in industrial chemistry he kept up his interest in pure science, and was a frequent attendant at meetings of the Royal Society of London.

Death

Threlfall died on 10 July 1932 and is buried in a family tomb at St Anne's Church, Woodplumpton, Lancashire. He was survived by four sons and two daughters. He was the author of On Laboratory Arts, published in 1898, and of papers in scientific journals.

Related Research Articles

Frederick Abel English chemist (1827–1902)

Sir Frederick Augustus Abel, 1st Baronet was an English chemist who was recognised as the leading British authority on explosives. He is best known for the invention of cordite as a replacement for gunpowder in firearms.

Irving Langmuir American chemist and physicist

Irving Langmuir was an American chemist, physicist, and engineer. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1932 for his work in surface chemistry.

John Ambrose Fleming English electrical engineer and physicist

Sir John Ambrose Fleming FRS was an English electrical engineer and physicist who invented the first thermionic valve or vacuum tube, designed the radio transmitter with which the first transatlantic radio transmission was made, and also established the right-hand rule used in physics.

James Dewar Scottish chemist and physicist

Sir James Dewar was a Scottish chemist and physicist. He is best known for his invention of the vacuum flask, which he used in conjunction with research into the liquefaction of gases. He also studied atomic and molecular spectroscopy, working in these fields for more than 25 years.

Cavendish Laboratory

The Cavendish Laboratory is the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and is part of the School of Physical Sciences. The laboratory was opened in 1874 on the New Museums Site as a laboratory for experimental physics and is named after the British chemist and physicist Henry Cavendish. The laboratory has had a huge influence on research in the disciplines of physics and biology.

William Henry Bragg

Sir William Henry Bragg was an English physicist, chemist, mathematician, and active sportsman who uniquely shared a Nobel Prize with his son Lawrence Bragg – the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics: "for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays". The mineral Braggite is named after him and his son. He was knighted in 1920.

Francis William Aston

Francis William Aston FRS was an English chemist and physicist who won the 1922 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery, by means of his mass spectrograph, of isotopes in many non-radioactive elements and for his enunciation of the whole number rule. He was a fellow of the Royal Society and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Sir Richard Tetley Glazebrook was an English physicist.

Theodore William Richards United States chemist

Theodore William Richards was the first American scientist to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, earning the award "in recognition of his exact determinations of the atomic weights of a large number of the chemical elements."

The Albert Medal of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) was instituted in 1864 as a memorial to Prince Albert, who had been President of the Society for 18 years. It was first awarded in 1864 for "distinguished merit in promoting Arts, Manufactures and Commerce". In presenting the Medal, the Society now looks to acknowledge individuals, organisation and groups that lead progress and create positive change within contemporary society in areas that are linked closely to the Society's broad agenda.

Frank Edward Smith British physicist (1876–1970)

Sir Frank Edward Smith was a British physicist and Acting Director of the National Physical Laboratory between 1936 and 1937.

Ferdinand Hurter

Ferdinand Hurter was a Swiss industrial chemist who settled in England. He also carried out research into photography.

Thomas Howell Laby FRS, was an Australian physicist and chemist, Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Melbourne 1915–1942. Along with George Kaye, he was one of the founding editors of the reference book Tables of Physical and Chemical Constants and Some Mathematical Functions, usually known simply as "Kaye and Laby".

Harold Baily Dixon (1852–1930) was a British chemist. He was also an amateur footballer who appeared for Oxford University in the 1873 FA Cup Final.

Howard Hamlet Gordon McKern was an Australian analytical and organic chemist, museum administrator who was Deputy Director of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences and President of the Royal Society of New South Wales.

Milton C. Whitaker was a noted 20th-century chemist. His areas of speciality were chemical engineering and industrial chemistry.

Sir Eric Keightley Rideal, was an English physical chemist. He worked on a wide range of subjects, including electrochemistry, chemical kinetics, catalysis, electrophoresis, colloids and surface chemistry. He is best known for the Eley–Rideal mechanism, which he proposed in 1938 with Daniel D. Eley. He is also known for the textbook that he authored, An Introduction to Surface Chemistry (1926), and was awarded honours for the research he carried out during both World Wars and for his services to chemistry.

William Rintoul

William Rintoul OBE was a British chemist and President of the Faraday Society between 1934 and 1936.

<i>Hollowforth</i>

Hollowforth is a heritage-listed residence in Kurraba Point, North Sydney Council, New South Wales, Australia. It was designed by Edward Jeaffreson Jackson and in association with S. G. Thorp and built from 1893 to 1893. The property is privately owned. It was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 2 April 1999.

Florence Martin was an Australian-American physicist and philanthropist. She performed research at the University of Sydney under Sir Richard Threlfall and at Cavendish Laboratory under J. J. Thomson.

References

  1. t., J. J.; h., W. B. (1932). "Sir Richard Threlfall. 1861-1932". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society . 1: 45–53. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1932.0010.
  2. Serle, Percival (1949). "Threlfall, Richard". Dictionary of Australian Biography . Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
  3. "Threlfall, Richard (THRL880R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.