Biographies of Scientific Men

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Biographies of Scientific Men  (1912) 
by Arthur Bower Griffiths


BIOGRAPHIES

OF SCIENTIFIC MEN



By

A. B. GRIFFITHS, PH.D.


Gold Medallist and Hon. Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Lisbon;
Hon. Member of the Academy of Sciences of Montpellier; Gold Medallist
of the Académie Nationale (Paris]; Hon. Member of the
Societies of Sciences of Bucharest, Mexico, Biarritz, and
Rio Janeiro; Hon. Member of the Société Alchimique
de France; Author of "The Physiology of the
Invertebrata," "Respiratory Proteids,"
"A Manual of Bacteriology,"
"Researches on Micro-
Organisms,"
etc., etc.



ILLUSTRATED

Biographiesofsci00grifrich 0009.png


LONDON
ROBERT SUTTON
WALPOLE HOUSE, 28 HENRIETTA STREET, W.C.
1912

[Entered at Stationers’ Hall. ]

To My Son

Eugène Stephen Griffiths

This Book

IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED

PREFACE

THE object of the author in writing this book is to exhibit views of the characters and doings of a few of the world's great men of science, and the influence which their work has exerted on the progress of science and civilization.

The biographical, historical, and scientific details have been compiled from the best available sources; original papers, documents, and in some cases autograph letters, etc., have been consulted. There is also a considerable amount of original matter collected in this country and abroad.

The present volume is a "study" of a group of men of science of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, their work, and the times in which they lived. "It is only by the study of what has been that we are able to understand what is," and science is no exception to the rule. Historical data add greatly to the interest of science, and dry facts become living pictures. "By following in the very footprints of the great discoverers, by watching them as they make their footing sure, and as they feel their way up the heights," is the correct way to appreciate science—which is destined to rule the world.

In conclusion, the author desires to acknowledge his indebtedness to Dr C. I. Istrati (formerly Ministre de l'Instruction Publique in the Roumanian Government), Mrs Eugénie Strong, Litt.D., LL.D. (Librarian at Chatsworth to the Duke of Devonshire), Eugène S. Griffiths, H. Follows, F.C.S., Miss E. H. Hopkinson, Miss C. B. Wright, G. Jacquemin, and the late A. C. Maybury, D.Sc., M.R.C.S., for information and help in certain parts of the book.

A. B. GRIFFITHS.

"Lyndhurst,"
 Barcombe Avenue, Streatham Hill,
 London, S.W.

CONTENTS


LAVOISIER
page
Birth and Parentage—Education at Collège Mazarin—An Avocat—Nouvelle Chimie—Elected a Member of the Académie des Sciences—Introduction of the Balance in Chemical Research—Conservation of Matter—On Calcination—Voltaire's Scientific Work—Explains Combustion—Phlogistic Theory Overthrown—Definition of an Element—Fermier Général—Death Sentence—Prison—His Letter to Augez de Villers—Rejection of his Petition—Marseillaise and Ça Ira—Coffinhal—His Death—Robespierre's and Lamartine's Descriptions of Coffinhal—Carlyle on Lavoisier's Death—Place de la Concorde—Statue of Lavoisier 1
CUVIER
Birth and Parentage—Education—Private Tutor to the Family of the Comte d'Héricy—French Wars—Ossemens Fossiles—The Abbé Tessier—Professorship at the École Centrale—Classification of the Animal Kingdom—Discovery of Red Blood in Leeches—Professorships at the Collège de France and the Jardin des Plantes—Memoirs on Palæontology—Leçons d'Anatomie Comparée—Napoleon establishes Lycées—Secretaryship of the Académie des Sciences—His Honours—Règne Animal—Cuvier made an "Immortal" and a Baron—His Library—Histoire Naturelle des Poissons—La Petite Révolution—His Death His Grave in the Cimetière du Père la Chaise—Character—Correlation of Growth—Tertiary Mammals of France—His Zoological Researches—Fossil Forms 18
CAVENDISH
Birth and Parentage—Studies at Cambridge—Character and Habits—Cavendish House, Clapham—Weighs the Earth—Law of Inverse Squares—Electrical Resistance of Water—Most Eccentric Character of His Time—Composition of Water—A Millionaire—His Evening Walk—Battersea Rise House—Stories about Cavendish—Cavendish and the Doctrine of Stahl—Atmospheric Gases—Discovery of Hydrogen—His Library—His Death and Burial—His Honours—Thomson, Lodge, Rayleigh, and Strutt on Cavendish—Galileo and the Church 30
PRIESTLEY
Birth and Parentage—Schooldays—Became a Calvinistic Minister—Heterodoxy—Tutor at a Dissenting Academy—Marriage—A History of Electricity—F.R.S.—LL.D.—Pneumatic Chemistry—Copley Medal—Appointed Librarian to Lord Shelburne—Visited France, Germany, and Holland—Unitarian Minister in Birmingham—America and the War of Independence—French Revolution—Writings and Speeches against the Established Church—Burke and Priestley—Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France—Tom Paine's Rights of Man—Mackintosh's Vindiciæ Galliæ—His Letters to Mr Burke—Burning of Chapels and Priestley's House—"Priestley Riots"—Priestley Arrived in London—Manuscripts Destroyed—Gillray's Cartoon—Pictures in Musée Wiertz, Brussels—Carlyle on the Priestley Riots—Elected a Member of the French Assemblée Nationale—Emigrated to America—Received £2000 Compensation—Posthumous Honours—His Books—Death and Burial—Discoverer of Oxygen—Phlogistic Theory—Proved Air to be a Mixture—CO2 and other Gases—Ammonia Gas—Prejudiced by Stahl's Doctrine 44
LINNÆUS
Birth and Parentage—His Father's Garden—School at Wexico—Entered the University of Lund—Studied under Stobœus—University of Upsala—His Poverty—Celsius and Linnæus—His Classification—The "Artificial System"—The "Natural System" of De Candolle—Binomial System of Nomenclature—Systema Naturæ—Fixity of Species—Rousseau on Botany—Lectureship at Upsala—Explored in Lapland—His Hardships—Baron Reuterholm—Visited Holland—M.D. of Leyden—Introduced to Boërhaave, Burmann, and Cliffort—Fundamenta Botanica and Bibliotheca Botanica—Visited England—Genera Plantarum—Homology—Philosophia Botanica—Floral Clock—Financial Difficulties—Hughes and Wireless Telegraphy—His Marriage—Elected President of the Royal Academy of Sweden—Professorship at Upsala—Rector of Same—Honours—Death 62
OWEN
Birth and Parentage—School Life—Apprenticed—Edinburgh University—St Bartholomew's Hospital—Prosector to Abernethy—Mr Clift and the Royal College of Surgeons—Lecturer at St Bartholomew's Hospital—Owen visited Cuvier in Paris—Owen and Voltaire's Statue—Memoir on the Pearly Nautilus—Huxley's Remarks concerning the Memoir—Catalogues of the Hunterian Collection—Professorship—F.R.S.—Marriage—Odontography—Sir William Flower on Owen's Anatomy and Physiology of the Vertebrates—Dinornis—The History of British Fossil ReptilesBritish Fossil Mammalia and BirdsResearches on the Fossil Remains of the Extinct Mammals of AustraliaExtinct Wingless Birds of New Zealand—Oslerism—His Work in Palæontology—Definitions of Analogy and Homology—Darwinism—His Scientific Imagination—Origin of Species—His Work on the Anthropoid Apes, Monotremes, Marsupials, Apteryx, Dodo, Lepidosiren, Toxodon Platensis, etc.—Huxley's Appreciation of Owen's Palaeontological Work—His Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of the Invertebrate Animals—His Letters to the Author—Owen and the Natural History Department of the British Museum—Civil List Pension—Honours—K.C.B.—LL.D.—and other Degrees—Medals—Sheen Lodge, Richmond Park (a Royal Residence)—His Character—Herbert Spencer and Darwinianism—Failing Health—Owen's Letter to the Author—Death and Burial—King Edward's Remarks Concerning Owen—Statue of Owen 75
LIEBIG
Birth—Universities of Bonn and Erlangen—Goethe and German Professors—Became a Pupil of Gay-Lussac—Introduced to Humboldt—Combustion Analysis—Professorship of Chemistry at Giessen University—Liebig and Wöhler on the Cyanates—Professorship at Munich—Hofmann's Eulogy—His Great Work on Agricultural Chemistry—Birth of the Superphosphate Industry—Mineral Theory of Plant Nutrition—Laws of Husbandry—Liebig's Attack on England—Familiar Letters on Chemistry—Made a Baron—Liebig's Definition of a Compound Radicle—Schorlemmer's Definition of Organic Chemistry—Chloroform—Chloral and Aldehyde—Organic Acids and the Doctrine of Basicity—Liebig and Bromine—Liebig and Mistakes—His Books—Honours—Death 91
LYELL
Birth and Parentage—Education at Midhurst and Oxford University—Attended Lectures of Dr Buckland—Called to the Bar and Practised as a Barrister—"On the Marls of Forfarshire"—Visited France—Introduced to Cuvier and Humboldt—Professorship of Geology at King's College—F.R.S.—The Principles of Geology—Lyell and Lamarck—Darwin and Lyell—Geological Uniformity and Continuity—Definition of Geology Classification of Rocks—"On the Volcanic Districts of Auvergne"—"On the Tertiary Formations of Aix-enProvence"—Division of the Tertiary Rocks—His Marriage—Elements of GeologyTravels in North America—Knighted and afterwards Created a Baronet—Refuted the Theory of Elevation Craters—On The Antiquity of ManThe Student's Elements of Geology—Honours—Death—Burial in Westminster Abbey 104
DALTON
Birth and Parentage—Education—School Work—Observations upon the Weather—On Vision of ColoursConstitution of Mixed Gases—J. P. Joule—Dalton's Atomic Theory—Law of Multiple Proportions—Avogadro's Law—The Law of Dulong and Petit—Dalton's Manchester Laboratory—Chemistry and Wealth of Nations—"On the Absorption of Gases by Water and other Liquids"—New System of Chemical Philosophy—Atomic Weights—Sizes, etc., of Atoms—Structure of an Atom—Electrons—Rutherford, George Darwin and Smithells on the Atomic Theory—Composition of the Air—As a Lecturer—F.R.S.—Honours—Visited Paris—Civil List Pension—His Character—Imagination (the Value of)—Death—Public Funeral—Posthumous Honours—Statue by Chantrey—Fresco by Madox Brown in the Manchester Town Hall—Dalton Scholarships at Manchester University—Würtz and Dalton's Atomic Theory 114
MENDELÉEFF
Birth and Parentage—Tobolsk Gymnasium—Education at St Petersburg University—Studied in Paris—Teacher and Chemist in the Crimea—Heidelberg—Professorship in the Technological Institute at St Petersburg—Professorship at the University—His Character—As a Lecturer—Loyalty to the House of Romanoff—His Estate near Moscow—Principles of Chemistry—The Periodic Law—His Predictions—Mendeléeff's Letter to the Author—"An Attempt towards a Chemical Conception of the Ether"—On Non-Valent Gases—Coronium—On Solutions—Absolute Boiling-Point—Naphtha Production in America and the Caucasus—Honours—Mendeléeff and Tolstoi—Miss Ellison Quoted—Death—The Czar's Telegram—Menschutkin's Sudden Death—Siberia and its Cruelties—Gorky Quoted 126
BUFFON
Birth—His Wealth—Tour de St Louis—Remarks of Rousseau and Prince Henry of Prussia on the Tour de St Louis—The Sorbonne—His Recantation of "Heresy"—Mr Gladstone on Evolution—Histoire NaturelleÉpoques de la Nature—Father of the Modern Evolutionist—Mirabeau, Rousseau, Diderot, Voltaire, and others praised Buffon's Style—His Character—Newton's Fluxions—Paved the Way for the Doctrine of Descent—Action of the Environment—Lowell Quoted—Buffon and Modern Evolution—His Vanity—Elected a Member of the Académie des Science—Directorship of the Jardin des Plantes—Théorie de la Terre—Comte de Saporta Quoted—Histoire Naturelle des OiseauxHistoire des Minéraux—Death—Burial in Père la Chaise—His Grave Desecrated during the Reign of Terror—Huxley's Appreciation of Buffon—Saint-Hilaire on Linnæus and Buffon 137
BERTHELOT
Birth and Parentage—Educated at Lycée Henri IV.—Préparateur at the Collège de France—His Thesis and Degree—Elected Professor of Chemistry in the École de Pharmacie—Professorship at the Collège de France—Founder of Organic Synthesis—Poincaré Quoted—His Work on Thermo-chemistry—Awarded the Jecker Prize—The Era of Berthelot—Acetylene—Methane—Value of Chemistry—Aerial Navigation—Proved the Alcoholic Nature of Glycerine—Chimie Organique fondée sur la SynthèseEssai de Mechanique Chimique fondée sur la Thermo-chimie—Berthelot's Laws—Berthelot's Agricultural Station and Investigations—His Books—Secretaryship of the Académie des Sciences—Elected a Member of the Académie Française—The Institut de France—President of the Scientific Committee of National Defence during the Siege of Paris—Sur la force des Matières Explosives—His Various Writings—A Member of the Cabinets of Goblet and Bourgeois—Friend of England—Russia's Jealousy—The Boer War, the German Emperor and Berthelot—Berthelot's Memory—Madame Berthelot—Berthelot's Kindness to Scientific Men—Honours—His Scientific Jubilee—The Sorbonne—His Historical Books—The Société Alchimique de France—The Finale—Berthelot and His Wife Die Together—Both Buried in the Panthéon—Berthelot and the Bodies of Voltaire and Rousseau 146
DAVY
Birth—Apprenticed to an Apothecary—Acquainted with Gilbert and Beddoes—Pneumatic Institution at Bristol—Forbes's Estimate of Davy—Poetic Powers—Introduced to Coleridge and Southey—Anæsthetic Properties of Nitrous Oxide—Lecturer at the Royal Institution and afterwards Professor—Johnson Quoted—His Lectures—Bakerian Lecture—Elements of Chemical Philosophy—Voltaic Battery—The Wollaston Battery—Napoleon's Remarks—Elected F.R.S.—Elements of Agricultural ChemistrySalmonia; or Days of Fly-FishingConsolation in Travels; or the Last Days of a Philosopher—Rumford and Davy—Heat, the vis viva of the Molecules—Newton's Law—Discovery of Potassium and Sodium—His Joy—Metals of the Alkaline Earths—Professor Thorpe's Remarks—His Knighthood—Marriage—Chloride of Nitrogen—The Safety Lamp—Created a Baronet—His Brilliant Experiments—Death—His Character—Honours—Posthumous Honours. Count Rumford:—The Royal Institution—War of American Independence—Rumford's Marriage—Rumford's Discoveries and Inventions—Rumford's Death and Burial—His Grave Damaged by a Shell during the Commune in 1871 163
GAY-LUSSAC
Birth—Student Days in Paris—Heine Quoted—Assistant to Berthollet—His First Memoirs—Gay-Lussac and Humboldt's Experiments on the Atmosphere—Nature of Volcanic Gases—Formation of Specular Iron—Professorship at the École Polytechnique, Paris—Chair in the Jardin des Plantes—Dynamics of Earthquakes—A New Process for the Preparation of Alkaline Metals—Recherches Physico-Chimiques—Napoleon and Men of Science—Napoleon and Volta—The Law of Volume—Avogadro's Law—Law of Dulong and Petit—Gay-Lussac's Tower—Boron, Boron Fluoride, and Boric Acid—Action of Light on Gases—Hydriodic Acid and Iodine—Cyanogen Beeswax Bleached by Chlorine—The Royal Ball at the Tuileries—The Birth of Isomorphism—The Chlorides of Iodine—Dithionic Acid, Sodamide, and the Fulminates—Elected a Member of the Chamber of Deputies—Created a Peer of France—His Physical Discoveries—Law of Gaseous Expansion—His Alcoholmeter, Syphon Barometer, and Apparatus for Ascertaining Vapour Densities—Cours de Physique, Cours de Chimie—Honours—Death—Posthumous Honours—Concluding Remarks 175
KELVIN
Birth and Parentage—Glasgow and Cambridge Universities—Honours at Cambridge—Professorship at Glasgow University—Cooling of the Earth—Natural Philosophy—Sizes of Atoms—J. J. Thomson's Work on Corpuscular Radiations—Law of the Dissipation of Energy—Vortex Motions—His Work in Physics—Law of Retardation—Mirror Galvanometer—Syphon Recorder—The Atlantic Cables—Knighthood—Mariner's Compass—Quadrant Electrometer—Tide-predicting Machine—Deep-sea Sounder—Kilowatt Balance—Multi-cellular Electrostatic Voltmeter—His Fortune—"The Secular Cooling of the Earth"—Bakerian Lecture—His Papers—F.R.S.—Copley Medal—Honours—His Marriage—Created a Peer—Orders of Knighthood—Character—His Lectures—His Jubilee—His Views on Nature—Joule's Electrical Researches—Death—Burial in Westminster Abbey—Inscription on the Grave—Kelvin and Electrons or Fractional Atoms—British Association Paper 185
Index 203

ILLUSTRATIONS

Lavoisier
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
Frontispiece
Death Warrant of Lavoisier
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
To face page13
Baron Cuvier
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
''  18
Cavendish and Cavendish House
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
''  34
Priestley and His Statue
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
''  44
Linnæus
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
''  62
Sir Richard Owen and Sheen Lodge
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
''  75
Liebig and the Giessen Laboratory in 1840
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
''  91
Sir Charles Lyell, Bart
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
''  104
Dalton and His Tomb
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
''  114
Mendeléeff
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
''  126
Count Buffon
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
''  137
Berthelot
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
''  146
Sir Humphry Davy, Bart
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
''  163
Gay-Lussac
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
''  175
Lord Kelvin
·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·          ·
''  185