Popular Science Monthly/Volume 15/October 1879/Sketch of Professor Frankland

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 15 October 1879  (1879) 
Sketch of Professor Frankland
PSM V15 D740 Edward Frankland.jpg


AMONG the eminent men of England whose names are closely associated with the contemporary progress of chemical science that of Dr. Frankland has a distinguished place. Having a genius for the theoretical and speculative side of his favorite subject, together with a thorough and comprehensive discipline in experimental operations, he has devoted himself with equal zeal and success to pure chemistry, to its physical relations, and to its large applications to public and sanitary questions which depend for their elucidation upon chemical knowledge. Eminent also as a teacher and an organizer of research, and occupying many positions of responsibility, he has exerted a powerful influence in drawing students to this branch of study, and in awakening their enthusiasm in its pursuit.

Edward Frankland, D.C.L., Ph.D., F.R.S., President of the Institute of Chemistry of Great Britain and Ireland and Professor of Chemistry in the Royal School of Mines, London, was born at Churchtown, near Lancaster, February 18, 1825. He was educated at the Lancaster Grammar School, and studied chemistry at the Museum of Practical Geology in London, under Lyon Playfair; and he was also a student at the Universities of Marburg and Giessen, where he worked in the laboratories of Bunsen and Liebig. At Marburg in 1849 he received the degree of Ph.D. when he presented a dissertation upon his discovery of a method for isolating the radical of alcohol and ether. In 1851 he was appointed Professor of Chemistry in Owens College, Manchester, and he also became Professor in St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, in 1857. In 1863 he was appointed Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and in 1865 he succeeded Dr. Hofmann at the Royal College of Chemistry (School of Mines), then in Oxford Street, but since removed to South Kensington. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1853, and in 1870 he received the honorary degree of D.C.L. of Oxford.

In 1868 Dr. Frankland was appointed, in conjunction with Sir W. Denison, K.C.B., and J. Chalmers Norton, Esq., one of her Majesty's commissioners for inquiring into the pollution of rivers. The results of these inquiries were embodied in six reports presented to Parliament, five of them dealing with the pollution of rivers by the drainage of towns and manufactures, and the sixth with the domestic water-supply of Great Britain.

In 1871 he was elected President of the Chemical Society, and he became the first President of the Institute of Chemistry in 1877. All the chemical articles in the Arts and Sciences division of the English Cyclopædia were written by Dr. Frankland, or under his immediate supervision. The "Philosophical Transactions" for 1852 contain a long memoir by him, entitled "On a New Series of Organic Bodies containing Metals." This important communication concludes with some theoretical considerations in which the analogy of the organo-metallic bodies with cacodyl is pointed out, and in which that character of elements which has since been termed "atomicity" was first described. In 1857 a royal medal was awarded him by the Royal Society for his "Researches on Organic Radicals and Organo-Metallic Bodies."

In the "Journal of the Chemical Society" (1866) Dr. Frankland published his "System of Notation" by which the formulae of bodies are made to represent the mode in which the atoms composing them are arranged in accordance with their atomicity. This system has proved of great service in elucidating the causes of isomerism in organic compounds. His "Lecture Notes for Chemical Students" was published in 1866—third edition, two volumes, in 1876. His celebrated memoir, "On the Source of Muscular Power," was printed in the "Philosophical Magazine" in 1866. He gave a course of six lectures before the Royal College of Chemistry, entitled "How to teach Chemistry," which was summarized for publication by George Chaloner. Dr. Frankland is the author of numerous papers published from time to time in scientific periodicals, among which may be mentioned, "Observations Economical and Sanitary on the Employment of Chemical Light for Artificial Illumination"; "Contributions to the Knowledge of the Manufacture of Gas"; "Researches on the Influence of Atmospheric Pressure on the Light of Gas, Candle, and other Flames"; on "Winter Sanitariums in the Alps and Elsewhere"; on the "Purification of Town Drainage and other Polluted Liquids"; and on "The Composition and Qualities of Water used for Drinking and other Purposes." He is also the author, conjointly with Mr. J. Norman Lockyer, of "Researches connected with the Atmosphere of the Sun."

In 1857 Professor Frankland published "Experimental Researches in Pure, Applied, and Physical Chemistry." It forms a volume of over a thousand pages, which was issued by John Van Voorst, of London, and embraces the main researches of his scientific career. It has a very full table of contents, an exhaustive index, and a large number of illustrations of apparatus used in research; graphic tables are also included, representing to the eye the results of extensive series of experimental investigations. The volume embraces the records of experimental work in pure, applied, and physical chemistry, extending over thirty years, and scattered through many English and foreign transactions and journals. They are grouped into subjects and arranged chronologically, with a new introduction to each chapter, showing its scope, the relations of the several papers to each other, and their bearing on subsequent inquiries. A uniform system of nomenclature and notation is adopted (except in the section on applied chemistry), the principles of which are explained in an opening memoir. The work is thus unified, and, being carefully edited and revised so as to give it the highest accuracy at the present time, it forms altogether a kind of comprehensive report upon the present state of the science in many of its most interesting and important aspects.

It may he remarked that the chemical inquiries detailed in this work took at first an analytical direction, with the object of isolating and identifying the proximate constituents or radicals of which organic compounds are constructed. Then they became synthetical, and were directed to the artificial building up or evolution of organic compounds. Some of these were already known as products of animal and vegetable life; while others, of at least equal complexity, were new additions to the category of organic bodies. In both cases their synthetical construction brought to light trustworthy evidence of their molecular architecture.

Dr. Frankland's investigations in applied chemistry, and especially those upon the purification of the sewage of towns, and the treatment of foul liquids from manufactories, and which were undertaken at the instigation of the Government, are most valuable. The results of the investigations on gas and water will be of service to engineers, manufacturers, agriculturists, local boards of health, and others interested either in the supply of gas and water to towns, the removal and utilization of foul drainage, or the health of populous places; for, in pursuing his inquiries Dr. Frankland did not confine himself to indispensable experiments and observations merely, but endeavored to discover the general principles underlying the various processes.

Dr. Frankland has been awarded honors from a large number of scientific bodies in England and on the Continent. He is Corresponding Member of the French Academy of Sciences; Foreign Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Bavaria; and of the Academies of Sciences of Berlin, St. Petersburg, and Bohemia. He is also Honorary Member of the Societies of Natural Sciences of Switzerland and of Göttingen; of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester; of the Chemical Societies of Germany, America, and Lehigh University, United States; of the Sanitarian Society of Dresden, and of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.