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William Ramsay was born in Glasgow on October 2, 1852, the son of William Ramsay, C.E. and Catherine, née Robertson. He was a nephew of the geologist, Sir Andrew Ramsay.
Until 1870 he studied in his native town, following this with a period in Fittig's laboratory at Tübingen until 1872. While there his thesis on orthotoluic acid and its derivatives earned him the degree of doctor of philosophy.
On his return to Scotland in 1872 he became assistant in chemistry at the Anderson College in Glasgow and two years later secured a similar position at the University there. In 1880 he was appointed Principal and Professor of Chemistry at University College, Bristol, and moved on in 1887 to the Chair of Inorganic Chemistry at University College, London, a post which he held until his retirement in 1913.
Ramsay's earliest works were in the field of organic chemistry. Besides his doctor's dissertation, about this period he published work on picoline and, in conjunction with Dobbie, on the decomposition products of the quinine alkaloids (1878-1879). From the commencement of the eighties he was chiefly active in physical chemistry, his many contributions to this branch of chemistry being mostly on stoichiometry and thermodynamics. To these must be added his investigations carried on with Sidney Young on evaporation and dissociation (1886-1889) and his work on solutions of metals (1889).
It was however in inorganic chemistry that his most celebrated discoveries were made. As early as 1885-1890 he published several notable papers on the oxides of nitrogen and followed those up with the discovery of argon, helium, neon, krypton, and xenon. Led to the conclusion by different paths and, at first, without working together, both Lord Rayleigh and Sir William Ramsay succeeded in proving that there must exist a previously unknown gas in the atmosphere. They subsequently worked in their separate laboratories on this problem but communicated the results of their labours almost daily. At the meeting of the British Association in August 1894, they announced the discovery of argon.
While seeking sources of argon in the mineral kingdom, Ramsay discovered helium in 1895. Guided by theoretical considerations founded on Mendeleev's periodic system, he then methodically sought the missing links in the new group of elements and found neon, krypton, and xenon (1898).
Yet another discovery of Ramsay (in conjunction with Soddy), the importance of which it was impossible to foresee, was the detection of helium in the emanations of radium (1903).
With regard to the scientific honours which - besides the Nobel Prize have been awarded to Ramsay, mention can be made of a great number of honorary memberships, viz. of the Institut de France, the Royal Academies of Ireland, Berlin, Bohemia, The Netherlands, Rome, Petrograd, Turin, Roumania, Vienna, Norway and Sweden; the Academies of Geneva, Frankfurt and Mexico; the German Chemical Society; the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London; the Académie de Médecine de Paris; the Pharmaceutical Society, and the Philosophical Societies of Manchester, Philadelphia and Rotterdam. He also received the Davy and Longstaff Medals, honorary doctorate of Dublin University, the Barnardo Medal and a prize of $ 5,000 from the Smithsonian Institution, a prize of Fr. 25,000 from France (together with Moissan), and the A.W. Hoffmann Medal in gold (Berlin, 1903). He was created K.C.B.(Knight Commander of the Order of Bath) in 1902, and was also a Knight of the Prussian order "Pour le mérite", Commander of the Crown of Italy, and Officer of the Legion d'Honneur of France.
In 1881 Ramsay married Margaret, the daughter of George Stevenson Buchanan. They had one son and one daughter. His recreations were languages and travelling.
Sir William Ramsay died at High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, on July 23, 1916.
1852-1916, Scottish chemist. He was professor of chemistry at University College, Bristol (1880-87), and at University College, London (1887-1912). In his early experiments he showed that the alkaloids are related to pyridine, which he synthesized (1876) from acetylene and prussic acid. He then turned to inorganic and physical chemistry. Investigating the inert gases of the atmosphere, he discovered helium; with Rayleigh he discovered argon, and with M. W. Travers, krypton, neon, and xenon. He also carried on research on radium emanation. In 1902 he was knighted. For his work on gases he received the 1904 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. His writings include System of Inorganic Chemistry (1891) and Essays Biographical and Chemical (1908). See biography by M. W. Travers (1956).
(b. Oct. 2, 1852, Glasgow, Scot.--d. July 23, 1916, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, Eng.), British chemist whose discovery of four of the noble gases (neon, argon, krypton, and xenon) earned him the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1904. A student of the German analytical chemist Robert Bunsen at the University of Heidelberg (1871), Ramsay became professor of chemistry at the University of Bristol, England (1880-87), and at the University of London (1887-1913). Among his early studies was the physiological action of alkaloids (complex chemical compounds derived from plants); he established their relationship to pyridine, a nitrogen-containing organic compound closely resembling benzene in chemical structure. With John Shields, he verified Roland Eötvös' law for the constancy of the rate of change of molecular surface energy with temperature. When in 1892 the British physicist Lord Rayleigh asked chemists to explain the difference between the atomic weight of nitrogen found in chemical compounds and the heavier free nitrogen found in the atmosphere, Ramsay predicted that nitrogen isolated from the atmosphere was consistently contaminated with a hitherto undiscovered heavy gas. Devising a method that assured the total removal of nitrogen and oxygen from air, Ramsay and Rayleigh found (1894) a chemically inert gaseous element, later called argon, making up nearly 1 percent of the atmosphere. The following year Ramsay liberated helium from the mineral cleveite and thus became the first person to isolate that element. He later (1903) demonstrated that helium, the lightest of the inert gases, is continually produced during the radioactive decay of radium, a discovery of crucial importance to a modern understanding of nuclear reactions. The positions of helium and argon in the periodic table of elements (a systematic ordering of the elements according to their atomic weights and chemical properties) indicated that at least three more noble gases should exist, and in 1898 Ramsay and the British chemist Morris W. Travers isolated these elements--called neon, krypton, and xenon--from air brought to a liquid state at low temperature and high pressure. In 1910 Ramsay detected the presence of the last of the noble-gas series, called niton (now known as radon), in the radioactive emissions of radium. Ramsay was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1888 and was knighted in 1902. His writings include A System of Inorganic Chemistry (1891), The Gases of the Atmosphere (1896), Modern Chemistry, 2 vol. (1900), Introduction to the Study of Physical Chemistry (1904), and Elements and Electrons (1913). http://www.britannica.com/nobel/micro/493_80.html
Sorry this has nothing to do with your topic but I could not open up a seperate one. Is anyone aware of Ramsay's work in the field of archaeology or am I confused with someone else?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Mitchell_Ramsay Close, but you got the wrong William Ramsay 184.108.40.206 (talk) 22:26, 15 May 2009 (UTC)
Confusion over early career (after Tubingen and before Bristol) 
There is currently an unreferenced sentence stating that Ramsay worked in Glasgow at Anderson's Institution after his PhD at Tubingen. However, the FRSE, which is nearly always a reliable ref, states:
"Appointments Held: Assistant Chemist 1869-, Robert Tatlock's Laboratory, Glasgow; Assistant 1874-80, Chemistry, Glasgow University;... "
I note that we have no article on Robert Tatlock, so there may not be any incompatability. However, better and fuller referencing, and clarification, are desirable. Eg. the text ought to mention his 7 years working at Glasgow University. Cheers. --Mais oui! (talk) 06:30, 24 November 2011 (UTC)
- Looks like Tatlock may pass our notability threshold. I found this:
In addition to commercial analysis, classes were held for students, some of whom became famous such as Sir William Ramsay, who was a student in 1869. Later Ramsay wrote “In 1869 I entered the laboratory of Robert Tatlock, who had been assistant to Professor Penny. Mr. Tatlock was (and is) an eminent analytical chemist and during the year I had with him I had a course of qualitative analysis and got through a good part of quantitative analysis”
- ... which means that Ramsay not only worked at Anderson's institution, but was also a student there. --Mais oui! (talk) 07:28, 24 November 2011 (UTC)