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Early training in Chemistry—his meeting with Lawes—official distinctions—the Lawes-Gilbert combination—the Rothamsted Reports—Liebig's 'mineral theory'—the relation to nitrogen—Leguminous plants—Hellriegel and others—confirmation of their results—nitrification—feeding of stock.
Joseph Henry Gilbert was born at Hull on August 1, 1817. He was a son of the manse being the second son of the Rev. Joseph Gilbert, a Congregational Minister. His mother was one of the gifted daughters of the Rev. Isaac Taylor of Ongar, and a well-known writer of hymns and songs for children. Whilst at school young Gilbert had the misfortune to meet with a gunshot accident which deprived him of the use of one eye, a mishap which for a time threatened to mar his future career, but his own inherent determination and the home-training of the manse enabled him to overcome the disadvantage of defective eye-sight, and triumph over physical disability.
From school he went to Glasgow University and studied chemistry under Professor Thomas Thomson, then to University College, London, where he attended the classes of Professor Graham and others, and worked in the laboratory of Professor Todd Thomson. Here it was, in Dr Thomson's laboratory, that he first met Mr J. B. Lawes, with whom he was afterwards so intimately associated. He then proceeded to Giessen for a short time, studying under Liebig and taking his degree of Doctor of Philosophy in 1840. Returning to London, he worked at University College, acting as laboratory assistant to Professor