Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ronalds, Edmund

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RONALDS, EDMUND (1819–1889), chemist, son of Edmund Ronalds, a London merchant, and his wife Eliza, daughter of James Anderson, LL.D., and nephew of Sir Francis Ronalds [q. v.], was born in London in 1819. After leaving school, Ronalds studied successively at Giessen, where he graduated Ph.D., at Jena, Berlin, Heidelberg, and Paris. In 1840 he returned to England, and held the lectureships in chemistry successively at St. Mary's Hospital and the Middlesex Hospital. In 1849 he was appointed professor of chemistry in the Queen's College, Galway. He was secretary of the Chemical Society from 1848 to 1850, and edited the first two volumes of its ‘Quarterly Journal’ for 1849 and 1850. He resigned his chair at Galway in 1856, in order to take over the Bonnington chemical works, where the raw products of the Edinburgh gas-works were dealt with. In a letter to Sir Francis Ronalds he wrote in 1858 that he was ‘completely ignored as a tradesman by the savants of Edinburgh.’ In 1878 he retired from business, and set up a private research-laboratory in Edinburgh, to which he welcomed any chemist. After suffering for some years from ill-health, he died at Bonnington House on 9 Sept. 1889, leaving a widow and six children.

The Royal Society's ‘Catalogue’ contains a list of four papers by Ronalds, in the most important of which he showed that the sulphur and phosphorus in the human urine exist partly in a less oxidised state than as sulphate and phosphate (Philosophical Transactions, 1846, p. 461). In collaboration with Thomas Richardson (1816–1867) [q. v.], he translated and edited Knapp's ‘Lehrbuch der chemischen Technologie,’ of which they published the first edition during 1848–51. A second edition was rewritten, so as to form a new work, but Ronalds collaborated only with respect to the first two parts, published in 1855.

[Chem. Soc. Trans. 1890, p. 456; Proceedings Roy. Soc. of Edinburgh, vol. xvii. p. xxviii (by J. Y. Buchanan); Scotsman for 10 Sept. 1889; MS. Letters of Sir Francis Ronalds in the Library of the Society of Telegraph Engineers; The Jubilee of the Chemical Society, pp. 183, 240.]

P. J. H.