Daniel Rutherford

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Daniel Rutherford
Rutherford Daniel.jpg
Daniel Rutherford. Mezzotint engraving after a portrait by Sir Henry Raeburn.
Born 3 November 1749
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died 15 December 1819[1] (aged 70)
Edinburgh
Nationality Scottish
Fields Chemistry
Institutions Physician in Edinburgh (1775-86)
Professor of Medicine and Botany, Edinburgh University, and Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (1786-1819)
King's Botanist in Scotland (1786-)
Physician at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (1791)
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
Known for Nitrogen
Influences Joseph Black
Author abbrev. (botany) Rutherf.

Daniel Rutherford FRSE FRCPE FLS FSA(Scot) (3 November 1749 – 15 December 1819) was a Scottish physician, chemist and botanist who is most famous for the isolation of nitrogen in 1772.[2]

Rutherford was the uncle of the novelist Sir Walter Scott, but not related to the atomic theorist Ernest Rutherford. Rutherford was a well known Chemist, Botanist and Physician.

Early life[edit]

The son of Professor John Rutherford (1695–1779) and Anne Mackay, Daniel Rutherford was born in Edinburgh on 3 November 1749. He left home at the age of 16 to go to college. He was educated at Mundell's School and Edinburgh University (MD 1772).

Isolation of nitrogen[edit]

Daniel Rutherford discovered nitrogen by the isolation of the particle in 1772. When Joseph Black was studying the properties of carbon dioxide, he found that a candle would not burn in it.

He turned this problem over to his student at the time, Daniel Rutherford. Rutherford kept a mouse in a space with a confined quality of air until it died. Then, he burned a candle in the remaining air until it went out. Afterwards, he burned phosphorus in that, until it would not burn. Then the air was passed through a carbon dioxide absorbing solution. The remaining oxygen did not support combustion, and a mouse could not live in it.

Rutherford called the gas (which we now know would have consisted primarily of nitrogen) “noxious air” or “phlogisticated air”. Rutherford reported the experiment in 1772. He and Black were convinced of the validity of the phlogiston theory, so they explained their results in terms of it.

He was a professor of botany at the University of Edinburgh and keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

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