Andrew Ure

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Andrew Ure
Andrew Ure.jpg
Andrew Ure
Born(1778-05-18)18 May 1778
Glasgow, Scotland
Died2 January 1857(1857-01-02) (aged 78)
London, England
Scientific career
FieldsMedicine, chemistry, and natural philosophy
InstitutionsAndersonian Institution, Glasgow

Andrew Ure[1] FRS (18 May 1778 – 2 January 1857) was a Scottish physician, founder of the Andersonian Institution, which became the University of Strathclyde; foremost consulting chemist;[2] scriptural geologist; and early business theorist.[3]


Andrew Ure was born on 18 May 1778 in Glasgow, the son of Anne and Alexander Ure, a cheesemonger. In 1801 he received an MD from the University of Glasgow, and served briefly as an army surgeon before settling in Glasgow, where he became a member of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons in 1803. He replaced Dr George Birkbeck as Professor of Natural Philosophy (specialising in chemistry and physics) in 1804 at the then recently formed Andersonian Institution (now known as University of Strathclyde). His evening lectures on chemistry and mechanics enjoyed considerable success and inspired the foundation of a number of mechanical institutions in Britain and the École des Arts et Métiers in Paris. He married Catherine Monteath in 1807.[2]

Ure founded the Garnet Hill observatory in 1808. He was put in charge and resided in it for several years, leaving it second only to Greenwich in reputation at that time. While in residence he was visited by Sir William Herschel, who gave some lectures to the local Astronomical Society and helped him to install a 14 feet (4.3 m) reflecting telescope of Ure's design and manufacture. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1811. Herschel's second son, many years later (in 1866), came to occupy Dr Ure's chair in natural philosophy.[2][4]

In 1814, while giving guest lectures in Belfast, he did consulting work for the Irish linen board, devising an 'alkalimeter' which gave volumetric estimates of the alkali contents of industrial substances. This in turn led him to the concept of normality in volumetric analysis. He achieved considerable reputation for his practical chemistry.[2]

1867 engraving of Ure's galvanic experiments on Clydesdale

On 4 November 1818 Ure assisted the Professor of Anatomy, James Jeffray,[5] in experiments he had been carrying out on a murderer named Matthew Clydesdale, after the man's execution by hanging.[6][7] He claimed that, by stimulating the phrenic nerve, life could be restored in cases of suffocation, drowning or hanging.[7]

Every muscle of the body was immediately agitated with convulsive movements resembling a violent shuddering from cold. ... On moving the second rod from hip to heel, the knee being previously bent, the leg was thrown out with such violence as nearly to overturn one of the assistants, who in vain tried to prevent its extension. The body was also made to perform the movements of breathing by stimulating the phrenic nerve and the diaphragm. When the supraorbital nerve was excited 'every muscle in his countenance was simultaneously thrown into fearful action; rage, horror, despair, anguish, and ghastly smiles, united their hideous expressions in the murderer's face, surpassing far the wildest representations of Fuseli or a Kean. At this period several of the spectators were forced to leave the apartment from terror or sickness, and one gentleman fainted.'

— Andrew Ure (1819)[8]

In 1819 he divorced his wife, who had become the mistress of an Anderson's Institution colleague.[2] In 1821 he published his first major book, Dictionary of Chemistry, a replacement for William Nicholson's outdated Dictionary. It came out two years after William Brande's Manual of Chemistry, and Ure was accused of plagiarism.[9] Subsequently, Ure accused Dr William Henry and Thomas Thomson of plagiarism of his own works.[10]

In 1822 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.[2] By 1830, Ure's outside interests led him to resign first from his chair and then from the institution. He moved to London and set himself up as a consulting chemist (probably the first such in Britain). His work included acting as an expert witness, government commissions and industrial tours of England, Belgium and France. His visits to English textile mills led to his publication of The Philosophy of Manufactures (1835) and Account of the Cotton Industry (1836), dealing with the textile industry. In 1840 he helped found the Pharmaceutical Society.[2]

His exposure to factory conditions led him to consider methods of heating and ventilation, and he is credited with being the first to describe a bi-metallic thermostat.[11]

the memorial to Dr Andrew Ure, Glasgow Cathedral

The great Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures and Mines, Ure's chief and most encyclopaedic work, was published in 1837 for which he received 1,000 guineas (worth about $30,000 in 2010). Further enlarged editions were rapidly called for in 1840, 1843 and 1853. After his death four further editions appeared, the last in 1878. This work was translated into almost every European language, including Russian and Spanish. The Times review said: "This is a book of vast research, and the variety of subjects embraced in it may be estimated by the fact that on the French translation it was thought advisable to employ nineteen collaborators, all regarded as experts in their special subjects."[12] Historical accounts of the advancement of geology regularly make mention of Andrew Ure.[13]

Ure died in 1857 in London.[2] Throughout his life he had a wide circle of friends and he communicated regularly with many principal scientists around the world. These all lamented his death.[14] Michael Faraday's posthumous description of him was:

…his skill and accuracy were well known as well as the ingenuity of the methods employed in his researches … and it has been stated that no one of his results has ever been impugned. His extensive knowledge enabled him to arrive at conclusions, and to demonstrate facts considered impossible by his compeers in science[15]

He is buried in Highgate Cemetery. A secondary memorial was erected in Glasgow Cathedral by his daughter, Katherine MacKinlay.


Ure was a scriptural geologist[16] and in 1829 published A New System of Geology, for which "he received 500 guineas (worth about $15,000 in 2010) and was elected an original member of the Geological Society."[7] Ure promoted the study of geology, that "magnificent field of knowledge." However some criticised the book severely,[2] and "The New System of Geology was not a success, even among readers who might have been expected to be sympathetic, and it was soon forgotten." because "the New System of Geology ... came just too late, at a time when the positions it so noisily defended were being quietly abandoned, leaving the author in slightly ridiculous isolation." [7] Lyell's claimed, falsely, that Ure wanted all promoters of the new geology "to be burnt at Smithfield." Ure thought both Werner's and Hutton's theories violated every principle of mechanical and chemical science. A sound geological theory, he believed, ought to follow Bacon and Newton's example. And since geology and the Scriptures were the work of God then they would agree when properly interpreted. Ure said that the Bible was important to the history of the earth. He distinguished between the present functioning of the universe and its origin in the past. For him, the proper science is the repeatable and experimental study of how creation functions in the present. But concerning the unobservable past, we create speculation.[17]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Ure, Andrew (1821). A Dictionary of Chemistry. London: Thomas & George Underwood; J. Highley & Son; and others. An available edition: Ure, Andrew (1828). Dictionary of Chemistry., 3rd edition (1828).
  • Ure, Andrew (1829). A New System of Geology. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, & Green. A New System of Geology.
  • Ure, Andrew (1835). The Philosophy of Manufactures: or, An Exposition of the Scientific, Moral, and Commercial Economy of the Factory System of Great Britain (PDF). London: Charles Knight. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 February 2012.
  • Ure, Andrew (1836). The Cotton Manufacture of Great Britain. London: Charles Knight.
  • Ure, Andrew (1839). A Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, and Mines. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green and Longmans. An available edition: A Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, and Mines. 1870., a new edition, vol. 1 (1870).


  1. ^ Rhymes with "pure".
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cardwell 2004.
  3. ^ Wren, Daniel A.; Bedeian, Arthur G. (2008). The evolution of management thought (6th ed.). pp. 70–73.
  4. ^ Copeman 1951, p. 658.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Copeman 1951, pp. 658–59.
  7. ^ a b c d Farrar 1973, p. 103.
  8. ^ From: Ure, A.,(1819), Quart. J. Sci., vol. 6, pp. 283–294. quoted by Copeman 1951, pp. 658–59, Farrar 1973, p. 103, and in the Oxford Biography (Cardwell 2004).
  9. ^ A Manual of Chemistry, on the Basis of Professor Brande's, The North American Review, Vol. 23, No. 53 (Oct 1826)
  10. ^ Copeman 1951, pp. 659–60.
  11. ^ Andrew Ure, On the Thermostat or Heat Governor, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1831
  12. ^ Copeman 1951, p. 661.
  13. ^ O'Connor 2007, p. 357.
  14. ^ BSG 1996, pp. 160–61.
  15. ^ Copeman 1951, p. 660.
  16. ^ Brooke & Cantor 2000, p. 57.
  17. ^ BSG 1996, pp. 160-163


External links[edit]