William Ramsay

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Sir William Xavier Ramsay
Ramsay in 1907
Born(1852-10-02)2 October 1852
Died23 July 1916(1916-07-23) (aged 63)
Alma materUniversity of Glasgow (1866-9)
Anderson's Institution, Glasgow (1869)[1]
University of Tübingen (PhD 1873)
Known forNoble gases
AwardsNobel Prize in Chemistry (1904)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1913)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Glasgow (1874-80)
University College, Bristol (1880–87)
University College London (1887–1913)
Doctoral advisorWilhelm Rudolph Fittig
Doctoral studentsEdward Charles Cyril Baly
James Johnston Dobbie
Jaroslav Heyrovský
Otto Hahn

Sir William Ramsay KCB FRS (William Ramsay, Jr.; 2 October 1852 – 23 July 1916) was a Scottish chemist. Ramsay discovered the noble gases. He also helped discover several elements that are on our periodic table today. He received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1904 "in recognition of his services in the discovery of the inert gaseous elements in air" (along with Lord Rayleigh).

Early life[change | change source]

Ramsay working in his lab, c. 1905

Ramsay was born in Glasgow on 2 October 1852.[2] He was a nephew of the geologist Sir Andrew Ramsay. His father, William, Sr., was a civil engineer. His mother was Catherine Robertson. He studied at Glasgow Academy, at the University of Glasgow and at University of Tübingen in Germany.

Ramsay went back to Glasgow as an assistant at the Anderson College. He found a job as Professor of chemistry at the University College of Bristol in 1879.

Career[change | change source]

On the evening of 19 April 1894 Ramsay was at a lecture given by Lord Rayleigh. Rayleigh had noticed a difference between the density of nitrogen made by chemical synthesis and nitrogen isolated from the air by removal of the other known components. He named the gas responsible for this difference "argon".[3]

He was working with Morris Travers, when he discovered neon, krypton, and xenon.[3] He also isolated helium.[3] In 1910, he also created and characterized radon.[4][3] In 1904, Ramsay received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.[3]

Ramsay discovered all six elements that are in the noble gas group on the periodic table.[3]

Personal life[change | change source]

Ramsay was married to Margaret Buchanan in 1881. They had one daughter, Catherine, and one son, William George. William George died when he was 40.

Death[change | change source]

Ramsay lived in Hazlemere, Buckinghamshire until his death. He died in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire on 23 July 1916 from nasal cancer (nose cancer). He died at the age of 63. He was buried in Hazlemere Parish church.

Recognition[change | change source]

The Sir William Ramsay School in Hazlemere is named after him.

References[change | change source]

  1. Thorburn Burns, D. (2011). "Robert Rattray Tatlock (1837-1934), Public Analyst for Glasgow" (PDF). Journal of the Association of Public Analysts. 39: 38–43. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  2. Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783-2002: Biographical Index (PDF). Vol. II. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2006. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 "Sir William Ramsay". Nobel Prize.org. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  4. W. Ramsay and R. W. Gray (1910). "La densité de l'emanation du radium". C.R. Hebd. Séances Acad. Sci. 151: 126–128.

Other websites[change | change source]