Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Frankland, Edward

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FRANKLAND, Sir EDWARD (1825–1899), chemist, was born at Churchtown, near Lancaster, on 18 Jan. 1825. He went Tom seven to twelve to a school in Lancaster iept by James Willasey (to whom he said later that 'he owed the development and training of the faculty of observation'), and then to the Royal Grammar School, under the Rev. James Beetham. He was apprenticed about 1840 to Stephen Ross, a chemist in Dheapside, Lancaster, with whom he worked fourteen hours a day. During his apprenticeship he learnt chemistry from Christopher Johnson and his son, Dr. James Johnson, who evicted a tenant from a cottage to turn it into a laboratory for Frankland and other lads. In 1845 Frankland went to the Museum of Practical Geology, London, to study under Dr. Lyon (later Baron) Playfair [q. v.] Here he made acquaintance with Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe, then Playfair's assistant, who, like Frankland, rose later to the front rank of chemists. The two men published an interesting paper on the conversion of ethyl cyanide into propionic acid (Mem. Chem. Soc. 1847, iii. 386), a reaction which Dumas and others showed a few months later to be typical of a series of reactions which rendered possible the synthesis of all the fatty acids (Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences, xxv. 383, 656). Dumas's results were confirmed by Frankland and Kolbe later.

In 1847 Frankland was elected F.C.S., and in the same year became teacher of chemistry at Queenwood College, Hampshire [see Edmondson, George], where John Tyndall [q. v.] was teaching mathematics. The two men rose at 4 A.M. to exchange lessons before school work began. Frankland during the same period started in the school laboratory his classical research on the isolation of the 'alcohol-radicles,' whose existence had been postulated by Robert (afterwards Sir) Kane [q. v.], Berzelius, and Liebig in 1833 and 1834. In 1847 Frankland went with Kolbe for three months to work under the great chemist, Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, at Marburg; and in the autumn of 1848 Frankland and Tyndall threw up their appointments to enter that university. Besides carrying out subsidiary work with Kolbe, Frankland continued here the study of the action of zinc on the alkyl iodides, which proved in his hands one of the most fruitful in the whole range of organic chemistry, and the investigations directly derived from it were carried on by Frankland down to the year 1865. It led to the synthesis of the 'organo-metallic' compounds, to that of 'organo-boron' compounds, of acids of the lactic and acrylic series, and especially of certain important hydrocarbons, which were the immediate object of Frankland's search; these he called the 'alcohol-radicles,' believing them to constitute a series identical in composition, but isomeric, with the hydro-carbons of the marsh-gas series or 'hydrides of the alcohol radicles.' Carl Schorlemmer [q. v.] showed later that the two series of compounds were identical. In 1849 Frankland graduated Ph.D. in Marburg, and then went to work under Justus Liebig in Giessen. In 1850 he was elected to the professorship in chemistry at the Putney College for Civil Engineering, where he was a colleague of Playfair, and in 1851 to the professorship in the newly founded Owens College at Manchester. It was in Frankland's second paper on the organo-metallic compounds, read on 17 June 1852 before the Royal Society (Phil. Trans. 1852, p. 417), that he pointed out the 'general symmetry' of the formulæ of a number of inorganic and organic compounds, and suggested that 'the combining power of the attracting element ... is always satisfied by the same number of ... atoms,' and thus introduced into chemistry the conception of valency, completed later by Kekulé, A. S. Couper, and Cannizzaro (Frankland, Experimental Researches, p. 154), and now forming an integral part of the modern theory of organic .compounds. Frankland's theory passed without notice by the majority of chemists. Kolbe, however, after first rejecting them, was directly led by Frankland's suggestions to his theory of the relationships of organic acids, aldehydes, and alcohols, &c., which is of fundamental importance in the evolution of the subject. The two men published a joint paper on the question (which appeared by accident in Kolbe's name only") in Liebig's 'Annalen,' 1857, ci. 257, and this was followed by other papers by Kolbe. Frankland had already at Putney begun to work at applied chemistry. In 1851 he carried out an elaborate investigation on White's hydrocarbon process for the manufacture of gas, and in 1853 invented an argand burner, in which the 'regenerative' method of utilising heat that would otherwise be wasted a method originally devised and employed later on a manufacturing scale by Sir William Siemens [q. v.] found an early and probably independent application (Ure, Dict. of Arts and Manufactures, 4th ed. ii. 562). On 2 June 1853 Frankland was elected F.R.S., and in 1857 he received a royal medal from the Royal Society. In the same year he was elected lecturer on chemistry at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London. On 3 March 1859 he read as the Bakerian lecture his fourth memoir 'On Organo-metallic Bodies.' In the summer of 1859 he was asked, together with Professor August Wilhelm Hofmann, to report to the metropolitan board of works on some means of deodorising sewage, which was then sent raw into the Thames, and had caused the river to become 'black and horribly offensive.' This was the beginning of Frankland's work on water analysis and water purification, which later absorbed a great part of his energies. On 20 Aug. 1859 Frankland and Tyndall ascended Mont Blanc, and were the first to spend a night on the summit (Experimental Researches, p. 867). Frankland showed that candles burnt at the same rate under low atmospheric pressure at the summit as at Chamonix, but gave out less light. These observations were the starting-point for an elaborate experimental investigation on the influence of atmospheric pressure on combustion (published in the years 1861 to 1868), in which he demonstrated the unexpected result that a oxyhydrogen flame may be made to give out a continuous spectrum. His experiments led him in 1867 to suggest that the luminosity of flames was due not to the presence of solid particles, as had been previously supposed by Sir Humphry Davy [q. v.], but to dense gaseous hydrocarbons. Frankland showed that change of temperature affected the "spectrum in the case of lithium, this being the first observation of the kind (Letter to Tyndall, 7 Nov. 1861, Phil. Mag. [4] xxii. 472), and made some further contributions to spectrum analysis (Proc. Roy. Soc. 1867 xvii. 288, 453, 1869 xviii. 79) in conjunction with (Sir) Norman Lockyer. On 4 May 1863 Frankland was elected to the chair of chemistry in the Royal Institution, which he retained till 1868. In 1865 he was elected as Hofmann's successor to the chair of chemistry in the Royal College of Chemistry, afterwards united with the Royal School of Mines. In the last of Frankland's more extensive researches on organic chemistry he described, in conjunction with Baldwin Francis Duppa, F.R.S. (obituary in Journ. Chem. Soc. 1874, p. 1199), a general synthetic method of first-rate importance for the production of a large variety of fatty acids by the use of 'carbo-ketonic ethers.' A preliminary investigation on the subject had been published shortly before by Geuther, but the independent researches of Frankland and Duppa cover much wider ground, and are regarded as classical (see Wislichnus in Liebig's Annalen, 1877, clxxxvi. 161). In 1866 Frankland proposed a new system of formulæ for organic compounds, but it proved insufficiently elastic for new developments, and has not been generally adopted.

Frankland in 1865 was asked to continue Hofmann's monthly analyses of metropolitan drinking water, and he continued to do this for the registrar-general and for the local government board, improving the methods and extending the scope of his investigation down to his death. Together with his pupil, Professor Henry Edward Armstrong, he devised new methods of water analysis, which he embodied in a book on the subject, 'Water Analysis for Sanitary Purposes,' published in 1880.

In 1868 a second royal commission on rivers pollution, consisting of Major-general Sir William Thomas Denison [q. v.], Mr. John Chalmers Morton [see under Morton, John, 1781-1864], and Frankland, was appointed to complete the labours of the first commission (1865-8), and to extend them to Scotland. The new commission set up a laboratory under the direction of Frankland, and issued six annual reports, 1868-74, dealing with the pollution of rivers, the purification of sewage, and the domestic water supply. An immense amount of work was done on the river basins of England and Scotland, and the work has served as a foundation for subsequent investigations of problems still not satisfactorily solved. Frankland recognised the great superiority over other processes of intermittent downward filtration through land as a means of sewage purification. His investigations form the basis of the bacteriological process of purification now extensively employed. The work on water analysis finally absorbed nearly the whole of Frankland's time not devoted to teaching.

In 1885 he resigned his professorship at the Royal School of Mines, and went to live at his house, The Yews, at Reigate. After his retirement he worked at the chemistry of storage batteries (Proc. Roy. Soc. 1883, xxxv. 67, and 1889, xlvi. 304), and fitted his house with a battery devised on a system of his own. Frankland died on 9 Aug. 1899, after a short illness, at Golaa, Gudbrandsdalen, in Norway, where for many years he had spent his summer holiday in his favourite pursuit of salmon fishing.

The Royal Society's Catalogue (carried down to 1884) includes sixty-three papers by Frankland alone, two in collaboration with Kolbe, fifteen with B. F. Duppa, one with H. E. Armstrong, three with J. Norman Lockyer, and ten with other chemists. In 1877 he published, with a dedication to Bunsen, a volume of 'Experimental Researches in Pure, Applied, and Physical Chemistry,' which includes the papers published down to that date. He also published the following books: 1. 'How to teach Chemistry,' 1875 (six lectures delivered in 1872 and summarised by G. Chaloner). 2. 'Chemical Lecture Notes,' 1st edit. 1866; 2nd edit. 1870-2; 3rd edit. 1881 (in collaboration with F. R. Japp). 3. ' Inorganic Chemistry,' with F. R. Japp, 1884. 4. 'A Course of Lectures on Gas-lighting' (delivered at the Royal Institution in March 1867, and originally published in the 'Journal of Gas-lighting'). He also contributed articles on chemistry to the 'English Cyclopaedia,' and he gave a number of lectures before the Chemical Society and at the Royal Institution.

Besides the memoirs alluded to in detail above, Frankland published an important thermo-chemical investigation in connection with the well-known 'Faulhorn' experiment of his brother-in-law, A. Fick, and J. Wislicenus, on the 'Origin of Muscular Power' (Philosophical Mag. [4] xxxi. 485, xxxii. 182), which they attributed mainly to the combustion of carbohydrates, and not to that of muscle-substance, a result which has been generally confirmed. He devised, with W. J. Ward, certain improvements in methods of gas-analysis. He wrote several papers on meteorology (especially Alpine) and the glacial epoch, and he suggested that the persistency of town-fog is due to a film of coal-oil on the surface of the minute globules of water of which it is formed.

Frankland was an exceptionally brilliant and accomplished man of science. In nearly every fresh research he broke new ground, and laid the foundations for important work in the future. It is by his suggestion of the notion of valency, and by the great contributions to organic chemistry enumerated above, that he will be chiefly remembered. Frankland's memoirs are markedly clear in general plan and in expression. He had great manipulative skill in the laboratory.

Frankland was twice married; first, on 27 Feb. 1851, to Sophie, daughter of F. W. Fick, chief engineer to the electorate of Hesse-Cassel (d. 7 Jan. 1874), by whom he had three sons, Frederick William (b. 18 April 1854), sometime chief commissioner of government insurance in New Zealand, and Percy Faraday (b. 3 Oct. 1858), now professor of chemistry in the university of Birmingham, the third dying in infancy, and two surviving daughters; and secondly, in 1875, to Ellen (d. 20 Jan. 1899), daughter of C. K. Grenside of the Inner Temple, by whom he left two daughters.

A marble medallion of Frankland, by John Adams-Acton (1896), presented by himself, hangs in the chemistry lecture theatre of the Owens College; there is also a portrait bust in the possession of the Storey Institute, Lancaster; and large photographs in the possession of the Chemical Society and the Royal Institution, London.

In 1866 Frankland was elected corresponding member, and in 1895 foreign associate of the French Academy of Sciences. He was also a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Bavaria, and of the academies of Berlin, St. Petersburg, Upsala, Bohemia, and New York. He was made D.C.L. Oxford in 1870, and LL.D. Edinburgh in 1884. He was elected president of the Chemical Society for the years 1871–2 and 1872–3, and was president of the newly created Institute of Chemistry, from its foundation in 1877 to 1880; he received the Copley medal of the Royal Society in 1894, and was elected foreign secretary of the society in 1895, an office which he held till his death. In 1887 he became a J.P. for Surrey and in 1889 for London. In 1897, on the occasion of the queen's diamond jubilee, he was created K.C.B. in recognition of his services as water analyst to the government. He was a member, with Thomas Henry Huxley [q. v.], Tyndall, and others, of the X Club (L. Huxley, Life of Huxley).

[Besides the sources mentioned, obituaries in the following: Lancaster Guardian, 19 Aug. 1899; Mining Journ. 19 Aug. 1899; Times, 14 Aug. 1899; Nature, 17 Aug. 1899; Berichte d. deutschen chem. Gesellschaft, 1899, p. 2540 (by C. Liebermann); Proc. Inst. Soc. Civil Engineers, 1899–1900, cxxxix. 343 (by Prof. Francis Robert Japp, F.R.S.); Lancaster Guardian, Suppl. 31 Oct. 1891; Cross Fleury's Journ. March 1898; Manchester Memoirs, vol. xliv. p. xxxviii (by Prof. H. B. Dixon, F.R.S.); letter by Prof. John Attfield, F.R.S., dated 15 Aug. 1899, in the Chemist and Druggist; Frankland's obituary of Tyndall, Proc. Roy. Soc. 1894, vol. lv. p. xviii; Men of the Time, 15th edit.; Biograph and Review, 1880, iv. 335; Manchester Guardian, 4 Jan. 1851, p. 6; The Jubilee of the Chemical Society, 1896, pp. 57–60, 257, 259, and passim; Thompson's The Owens College, 1886; Hartog's The Owens College, 1899; Ladenburg's Entwickelungsgeschichte der Chemie, 2nd edit. 1887, pp. 243–53, 287; Wemyss Reid's Memoirs … of Lyon Playfair, 1899, pp. 93, 95, 175–6, 430–431; Ernst von Meyer's Hist. of Chemistry, transl. by McGowan, 2nd edit. 1898, passim; H. Kopp's Entwickelung der Chemie, 1887, passim; Schorlemmer's Rise &c. of Organic Chemistry, 2nd edit. 1894, passim; Roscoe and Schorlemmer's Treatise on Chemistry, vol. iii. pt. i. 1881, passim; Schäfer's Text-book of Physiology, 1898, i. 911; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Proc. Royal Institution, passim; Oxford Univ. Calendar; Regulations &c. of the Institute of Chemistry; Poggendorff's Biogr.-literar. Handwörterbuch; Record of the Royal Society, 1897; private information kindly given by Frankland's daughter, Mrs. Frank Colenso, and his son, Prof. Percy F. Frankland. A memorial lecture on Frankland is to be delivered shortly before the Chemical Society by Prof. H. E. Armstrong, F.R.S.]

P. J. H.