Thomas Richardson (chemist)

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Thomas Richardson FRS FRSE MRIA AICE (1816–1867) was an English industrial chemist, and industrial historian.



Born on 8 October 1816 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, he was educated there. Around 1830 he went to Glasgow University, to study Chemistry under Prof Thomas Thomson. Richardson then went to the University of Giessen, where, under Prof Justus von Liebig, he carried out researches on the composition of coal and the use of lead chromate in organic analysis, gaining a doctorate (Ph.D). He later went to Paris with Thomson, and completed his studies under Jules Pelouze.

Thomas Thomson (chemist) Scottish chemist

Thomas Thomson was a Scottish chemist and mineralogist whose writings contributed to the early spread of Dalton's atomic theory. His scientific accomplishments include the invention of the saccharometer and he gave silicon its current name. He served as president of the Philosophical Society of Glasgow.

University of Giessen German public university

University of Giessen, official name Justus Liebig University Giessen, is a large public research university in Giessen, Hesse, Germany. It is named after its most famous faculty member, Justus von Liebig, the founder of modern agricultural chemistry and inventor of artificial fertiliser. It covers the areas of arts/humanities, business, dentistry, economics, law, medicine, science, social sciences, and veterinary medicine. Its university hospital, which has two sites, Giessen and Marburg, is the only private university hospital in Germany.

Justus von Liebig German chemist

Justus Freiherr von Liebig was a German chemist who made major contributions to agricultural and biological chemistry, and was considered the founder of organic chemistry. As a professor at the University of Giessen, he devised the modern laboratory-oriented teaching method, and for such innovations, he is regarded as one of the greatest chemistry teachers of all time. He has been described as the "father of the fertilizer industry" for his emphasis on nitrogen and trace minerals as essential plant nutrients, and his formulation of the law of the minimum, which described how plant growth relied on the scarcest nutrient resource, rather than the total amount of resources available. He also developed a manufacturing process for beef extracts, and with his consent a company, called Liebig Extract of Meat Company, was founded to exploit the concept; it later introduced the Oxo brand beef bouillon cube. He popularized an earlier invention for condensing vapors, which came to be known as the Liebig condenser.

On his return to Newcastle, Richardson became a specialist in manufacturing chemistry, taking out a number of patents for processes. In 1840 he began, at Blaydon, near Newcastle, to remove the impurities, consisting chiefly of antimony, from "hard" lead, and thus to convert it into "soft" lead, by means of a current of air driven over the molten metal; the impurities were oxidised, floated to the surface, and were then skimmed off. Practical improvements introduced into the process by George Burnett soon after led to the annual importation of several thousand tons of Spanish hard lead into the Tyne district, where it was purified. John Percy brought forward evidence that Richardson was not the inventor of this process, quoting a letter from James Leathart, and stating that a patent for it was granted to Walter Hall in 1814.

Antimony Chemical element with atomic number 51

Antimony is a chemical element with symbol Sb (from Latin: stibium) and atomic number 51. A lustrous gray metalloid, it is found in nature mainly as the sulfide mineral stibnite (Sb2S3). Antimony compounds have been known since ancient times and were powdered for use as medicine and cosmetics, often known by the Arabic name, kohl. Metallic antimony was also known, but it was erroneously identified as lead upon its discovery. The earliest known description of the metal in the West was written in 1540 by Vannoccio Biringuccio.

John Percy (metallurgist) English metallurgist

John Percy was an English metallurgist.

In 1844 Richardson began at Blaydon the manufacture of superphosphates, as suggested by Liebig, and already begun in 1842 in the south of England, by John Lawes. In 1848 he patented a method for condensing "lead-fume" by means of steam, originally suggested by Richard Watson. In the winter session of 1848 he became lecturer on chemistry in the Newcastle school of medicine and surgery. After the temporary disruption of the school in 1851, he joined the school continued by the majority of the lecturers, which became connected in the same year with the University of Durham.

Richard Watson (bishop of Llandaff) (1737–1816) Anglican bishop and academic

Richard Watson (1737–1816) was an Anglican bishop and academic, who served as the Bishop of Llandaff from 1782 to 1816. He wrote some notable political pamphlets. In theology, he belonged to an influential group of followers of Edmund Law that included also John Hey and William Paley.

In June 1856 Richardson was made lecturer on chemistry in the university of Durham, and the degree of M.A. was conferred on him by that university. Richardson became an associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on 3 May 1864, was elected Fellow of the Royal Society on 7 June 1866, and fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in the same year. He was also a member of the Royal Irish Academy.

Fellow of the Royal Society Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, including Honorary, Foreign and Royal Fellows

Fellowship of the Royal Society is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of London judges to have made a 'substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science'.

Royal Society of Edinburgh academy of sciences

The Royal Society of Edinburgh is Scotland's national academy of science and letters. It is a registered charity, operating on a wholly independent and non-party-political basis and providing public benefit throughout Scotland. It was established in 1783. As of 2017, it has more than 1,660 Fellows.

Royal Irish Academy academy of sciences

The Royal Irish Academy, based in Dublin, is an all-Ireland, independent academic body that promotes study and excellence in the sciences, humanities and social sciences. It is one of Ireland's premier learned societies and cultural institutions, and currently has around 501 members including Honorary Members, elected in recognition of their academic achievements. The Academy was established in 1785 and granted a royal charter in 1786.

Richardson died of apoplexy in Wigan on 10 July 1867.

Apoplexy is bleeding within internal organs and the accompanying symptoms. For example, ovarian apoplexy is bleeding in the ovaries. The term formerly referred to what is now called a stroke; nowadays, health care professionals typically specify the type of apoplexy, such as cerebral, ovarian and pituitary apoplexy.

Wigan Town in Greater Manchester, England

Wigan is a town in Greater Manchester, England, on the River Douglas, 10 miles (16 km) south-west of Bolton, 12 miles (19 km) north of Warrington and 17 miles (27.4 km) west-northwest of Manchester. Wigan is the largest settlement in the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan and is its administrative centre. The town has a population of 103,608, whilst the wider borough has a population of 318,100.


With Pelouze he published, in 1838, a research on the action of water on cyanogen and the consequent formation of azulmic acid (i.e. oligomers of hydrogen cyanide that are insoluble in water [1] ).

In 1847, together with Edmund Ronalds, he began to translate Friedrich Ludwig Knapp's Technological Chemistry, which was published between 1848 and 1851. A second edition, in five parts, published in 1855, was rewritten so as to form a new work. Henry Watts replaced Ronalds as Richardson's collaborator for the last three of the five parts; and the book, which was recognised as a standard work, was incorporated by Charles Edward Groves and William Thorp in their Chemical Technology.

In 1855, together with Thomas John Taylor, he began to collect information on the history of the chemical industries of the Tyne district. He was helped later by James Cochran Stevenson, R. C. Clapham, and by Thomas Sopwith, and published in collaboration two reports on the subject in the Report of the British Association for 1863. These were incorporated in a book on The Industrial Resources of … the Tyne, Wear, and Tees, edited by himself, William Armstrong, Isaac Lowthian Bell, and John Taylor; two editions appeared in 1864.

He published, with Armstrong and James Longridge, three major reports (dated 25 August 1857 and 16 January 1858) on the use of the Steam Coals of the Hartley District of Northumberland in Steam-Boilers, addressed to the Steam Collieries Association of Newcastle-on-Tyne. The reports contain a record of a large and carefully conducted series of experiments; the conclusions were opposed to those of Sir Henry Thomas de la Beche and Lyon Playfair, on whose recommendation Welsh steam coal had been exclusively adopted by the navy. Richardson's reports were republished in 1859, together with T. W. Miller and R. Taplin's Report … on Hartley Coal. About 1866 Richardson carried out, with Lavington E. Fletcher at Kirklees, near Wigan, a similar series of experiments, which were published in 1867 as Experiments … [on] the Steam Coals of Lancashire and Cheshire.

Richardson published fifteen independent papers and six in collaboration with E. J. J. Browell (a fellow lecturer at the Newcastle school of medicine, and partner), John Lee, Pelouze, Sopwith, and Robert Dundas Thomson, on chemical questions.

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Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : "Richardson, Thomas (1816-1867)". Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.