|Born||3 November 1749
|Died||15 December 1819 (aged 70)
|Alma mater||University of Edinburgh|
|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)
|Author abbrev. (botany)||Rutherf.|
Rutherford was the uncle of the novelist Sir Walter Scott.
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
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. Black turned this problem over to his student at the time, Rutherford. Rutherford kept a mouse in a space with a confined quantity 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 component of the air 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 the 5th Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh from 1786 to 1819. He was President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh from 1796 to 1798.
- Waterston, Charles D.; Macmillan Shearer, A. (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783-2002: Biographical Index (PDF). II. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-10-04. Retrieved 2011-02-08.
- Daniel Rutherford (1772) "Dissertatio Inauguralis de aere fixo, aut mephitico" (Inaugural dissertation on the air [called] fixed or mephitic), M.D. dissertation, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
- English translation: Leonard Dobbin (1935) "Daniel Rutherford's inaugural dissertation," Journal of Chemical Education, 12 (8) : 370-375.
- See also: James R. Marshall and Virginia L. Marshall (Spring 2015) "Rediscovery of the Elements: Daniel Rutherford, nitrogen, and the demise of phlogiston," The Hexagon (of Alpha Chi Sigma), 106 (1) : 4–8. Available on-line at: University of North Texas[permanent dead link].
- Lavoisier, Antoine Laurent (1965). Elements of chemistry, in a new systematic order: containing all the modern discoveries. Courier Dover Publications. p. 15. ISBN 0-486-64624-6.
- "College Fellows: curing scurvy and discovering nitrogen". Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
- IPNI. Rutherf.
- "Rutherford, Daniel". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- Biographical note at “Lectures and Papers of Professor Daniel Rutherford (1749–1819), and Diary of Mrs Harriet Rutherford”