Memoir of Thomas Graham

J. P. Cooke
1871 American Journal of Science  
IT would be difficult to find in the history of science a character more simple, more noble, or more symmetrical in all its parts than that of THOMAS GRAHAM, and he will always be remembered as one of the most eminent of those great students of nature, who have rendered our Saxon race illustrious. He was born of Scotch parents in Glasgow in the year 1805, and in that city, whore he received his education, all his early life was passecL In 1837 he went to London as Professor of Chemistry in the
more » ... f Chemistry in the newly established London University now called University College, and he occupied this chair until the year 1855, when he succeeded Sir John Herschel as Master of the Royal' Mint, a post which he held to the close of his life. His death, on the 16th of September last, at the age of sixty, though ocoasioned by a severe oold, was really the wearing out of a constitution enfeebled in youth by excessive labor, voluntarily un-dm·taken and courageously borne, that he might devote his life to scientific study. As with all earnest students, that life was uneventful, if judged by ordinary standards; and the records of his discoveries form the only materials for his biography. Although one of the most successful investigators of Physical Science, the late Mastel' of the Mint had not that felicity of language or that copiousness of illustration, which added so much to the popular reputation of his distinguished contemporary, Faraday; but his influence on the progress of science was not less marked or less important. Both of these eminent men were for a long period of years best known to the English public as teachers of Chemistry, but their investigations were chiefly limited to physical problems; yet, although both cultivated the border ground between Chemistry and Physics, they followed wholly different lines of research. \iVhile Faraday was so successfully developing the principles of electrical action, Graham with equal success was investigating the laws of molecular motion. Each followed with wonderful constancy, as well as skill, a single line of study from first to last, and to this concentration of power their great discoveTies are largely due. One of the earliest and most important of Graham's investigations, and the one which gave the direction to his subsequent course of study, was that on the diffusion of gases. It had already been recognized that impenetrability in its ordinary sense is not, as was formerly supposed, a universal quality of matter. Dalton had not only recognized that aeriform bodies exhibit a positive tendency to mix, or to penetrate through each other, even in op-
doi:10.2475/ajs.s3-1.2.115 fatcat:a3phqrq6rvgtjgjgyw46pyovle