Flight, Walter (DNB00)

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FLIGHT, WALTER (1841–1885), mineralogist, son of William P. Flight of Winchester, was born in Winchester 21 Jan. 1841. He was educated at Queenwood College, Hampshire, where Debus then taught chemistry and Professor Tyndall physics, and in after life Debus was his constant friend. After coming of age Flight proceeded to Germany and spent the winter session of 1863-1864 studving chemistry under Professor Heintz at the university of Halle. He passed the next two years at Heidelberg, and acquired a thorough knowledge of chemistry. His studies in Germany were completed at Berlin, where he acted for some time as secretary and chemical assistant to Professor Hofmann. In 1867 Flight returned to England, and took the degree of doctor of science at London University. In 1868 he was appointed assistant exammer there in chemistry under Professor Debus. On 5 Sept. 1867 he became an assistant in the mineralogical department of the British Museum under Professor N. Story-Maskelyne. In the laboratory, which was now specially fitted up, he commenced a series of researches upon the mineral constituents of meteorites and their occluded gases, which rapidly brought him into notice. He was appointed examiner in chemistry and physics at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in 1868, and in 1876 examiner to the Royal Military Academy, Cheltenham. He also acted for several years as a member of the committee on luminous meteors appointed by the British Association. In 1880 he married Kate, daughter of Dr. Fell of Ambleside.

Flight wrote twenty-one papers on scientific subjects, of which the first three, all on chemical subjects, appeared in German periodicals in 1864-5-70. The later papers were chiefly upon meteorites, dealing in detail with the recorded circumstances of their fall, and with their mineralogical and chemical constituents; several, written in conjunction with Professor Story-Maskelyne, give accounts, published in the 'Philosophical Transactions,' of the meteorites which fell at Rowton in Shropshire, at Middlesborough, and at Cranbourne in Australia. A paper, thus jointly written, on 'Francolite, Vivianite, and Cronstedtite from Cornwall,' appeared in the 'Journal of the Chemical Society' for 1871. The last paper Flight wrote was on the meteorite of Alfianello in Italy. Between 1875 and 1883 Flight contributed a series of twenty-three papers to the 'Geological Magazine,' entitled 'A Chapter in the History of Meteorites' (published in book form in 1887). Flight was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 7 June 1883. In 1884 he was taken so seriously ill that he was compelled to resign his post in the British Museum, and died on 4 Nov. 1885, leaving a widow and three young children.

[Geol. Mag., December 1885; A Chapter in the History of Meteorites, by W. Flight (with obituary notice), 8vo, 224 pp., seven plates and six woodcuts, 1887.]

W. J. H.