Turner, Edward (DNB00)

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TURNER, EDWARD (1798–1837), chemist, was born in Jamaica in 1798, and was brought at an early age to Edinburgh, where he received his education. After graduating M.D. at Edinburgh in 1819, he studied for two years at Göttingen under Stromeyer, paying chief attention to chemistry and mineralogy. In 1824 he returned to Edinburgh, where he instituted a course of lectures on chemistry; and in 1828, on the opening of University College, London, he was appointed to the new chair of chemistry, which he continued to occupy until his death. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London about 1831, and was also a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Turner was the author of a short but clearly expressed ‘Introduction to the Study of the Laws of Chemical Combination and the Atomic Theory’ (1825), the matter of which was afterwards included in his ‘Elements of Chemistry’ (1827), a work which ran through eight editions. As an investigator he was very active, and published some forty papers and memoirs, a list of which is given in the Royal Society's ‘Catalogue of Scientific Papers.’ Most of these deal with the analysis of minerals and salts, and Turner succeeded in throwing much light on the constitution of many of these compounds, especially the ores and oxides of manganese. His most important scientific work, however, was that on the atomic weights of the elements. Stimulated by the hypothesis put forward by William Prout [q. v.], and by the experimental work by which Thomas Thomson (1773–1852) [q. v.] in 1825 sought to confirm it, Turner examined the question for himself. In two papers published in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ (1829 p. 291, and 1833 p. 523) he pointed out many sources of error in Thomson's work, and attained results which agreed with those of Berzelius, his conclusion being that ‘Dr. Prout's hypothesis, as advocated by Dr. Thomson—that all atomic weights are simple multiples of that of hydrogen—can no longer be maintained.’ He died on 13 Feb. 1837 at his residence at Hampstead, and was buried on 18 Feb. at Kensal Green cemetery. A marble bust of him was placed in the library of University College by his pupils.

[Gent. Mag. 1837, i. 434; Engl. Cyclop. Biogr. 1858, vi. 202; Funeral Sermon by the Rev. T. Dale; information from Prof. W. Ramsay.]

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