Hope, Thomas Charles (DNB00)

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HOPE, THOMAS CHARLES (1766–1844), professor of chemistry in Edinburgh University, third son of John Hope (1725–1786) [q. v.], was born in 1766, and studied at the Edinburgh High School and University, where he graduated in 1787, and published his dissertation, ‘Tentamen Inaugurale quædam de Plantarum Motibus et Vita, complectens,’ &c., Edinburgh, 1787. In the same year he was appointed professor of chemistry at Glasgow University, but resigned after becoming in 1789 assistant professor of medicine. In October 1795 he was elected joint professor of chemistry at Edinburgh with Joseph Black [q. v.]. In 1799, on Black's death, he became sole professor, and for more than fifty years was a most successful teacher. He had learnt Lavoisier's and Dalton's views from them personally, and his lectures were marked by unusual clearness, while his experiments were elaborate and almost always successful. His class in 1823 included 575 students. Early in his career he made two important researches. The first, read 4 Nov. 1793 before the Royal Society of Edinburgh, was described in ‘An Account of a Mineral from Strontian, and of a Peculiar Species of Earth which it contains.’ The native strontium carbonate, discovered in 1787 at Strontian in Argyllshire, was at first regarded as barium carbonate. Dr. Crawfurd in 1790 suggested that strontian contained a peculiar earth; but the proof was given by Hope in 1791–2 in a classic series of experiments. His second important research established the fact that water attains its maximum density several degrees above the freezing point, although he placed it slightly too high (39.5° F. instead of 39.2°). This research is given in ‘Experiments on the Contraction of Water by Heat’ (Edinb. Roy. Soc. Trans. 1805, v. 379–405). Hope wrote a few other scientific papers, several being on the chemical and colouring matters in the leaves and flowers of plants; but his life was almost wholly given to teaching. Although an experimentalist he did not afford facilities for practical work to his students, and it was not till 1823 that the teaching of practical chemistry was begun by Dr. Anderson, his assistant. In 1828 Hope gave 800l. to found a chemical prize in the university. He resigned his professorship at the close of the winter session of 1842–3, and died at Edinburgh on 13 June 1844, aged 77.

[Kay's Edinburgh Portraits, ii. 450; Grant's Story of Edinburgh University, ii. 397; Life of Sir R. Christison, i. 57.]

G. T. B.