1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Beilby, Sir George Thomas
BEILBY, SIR GEORGE THOMAS (1850- ), British physicist, was born at Edinburgh Nov. 17 1850, his father being a physician. He was educated at Edinburgh University and trained as a civil engineer. When quite young he developed, in collaboration with the late William Young, a new method of retorting oil shale, in which by carrying out the operation in two stages, each at the most suitable temperature, most of the fixed nitrogen in the spent shale, which had previously been lost, was obtained as sulphate of ammonia. Between 1881 and 1894 this method entirely displaced the older methods of retorting, and the industry was enabled to hold its own in competition with imported petroleum products. In 1891 Beilby invented and developed a new synthetic process for the manufacture of the cyanides of potassium and sodium, by the use of which gold and silver are recovered from their ores. The cyanides are produced by passing ammonia gas through a molten mixture of the carbonates of the alkalis with charcoal, at a temperature of 850° C. An important British industry was founded on this process, the first factory being opened at Leith in 1891. Beilby was elected F.R.S. in 1906. He was president of the Society of Chemical Industry in 1899, of the chemical section of the British Association in 1905, of the Institute of Chemistry in 1909-12, and of the Institute of Metals in 1916-8. In 1912 he was a member of the Royal Commission on Fuel and Engines for the Navy. During the World War he was a member of the Admiralty Board of Inventions and Research. He was knighted in 1916. He published many scientific and technical papers, and also The Aggregation and Flow of Solids (1921).