Daniel Rutherford

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Daniel Rutherford
Rutherford Daniel.jpg
Daniel Rutherford Mezzotint engraving after a portrait by Sir Henry Raeburn.
Born3 November 1749
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died15 December 1819[1] (aged 70)
Edinburgh, Scotland
NationalityScottish
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
Known forNitrogen
Scientific career
FieldsChemistry
InstitutionsPhysician 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)
InfluencesJoseph 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.

Life[edit]

The son of Professor John Rutherford (1695–1779) and his wife, Anne Mackay, Daniel Rutherford was born in Edinburgh on 3 November 1749. He began college at the age of 16 at Mundell's School on the West Bow close to his family home, and then studied medicine under William Cullen and Joseph Black at the University of Edinburgh,[2] graduating with a doctorate (MD) in 1772. From 1775 to 1786 he practiced as a physician in Edinburgh.

In 1783 he was a joint founder of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He was president of the Harveian Society in 1787.[3] At this time he lived at Hyndford Close on the Royal Mile.[4]

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.[5]

His pupils included Thomas Brown of Lanfine and Waterhaughs.[6]

Around 1805 he moved from Hyndfords Close to a newly built outhouse at 20 Picardy Place at the top of Leith Walk, where he lived for the rest of his life.[7] It was a very unhygienic place, and it gave him constant diarrhea.

He died in Edinburgh on 15 December 1819.

Family[edit]

In 1786 he married Harriet Mitchelson of Middleton.

Family[edit]

Rutherford was the maternal uncle of the novelist Sir Walter Scott.

Isolation of nitrogen[edit]

Rutherford discovered nitrogen by the isolation of the particle[clarification needed] in 1772.[8][9] 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.

Botanical reference[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 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 4 October 2006. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  2. ^ https://www.rcpe.ac.uk/heritage/art/rutherford-daniel-1749-1819
  3. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. p. 812. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  4. ^ Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1784
  5. ^ "College Fellows: curing scurvy and discovering nitrogen". Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 May 2013. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  7. ^ Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  8. ^ See:
    • 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].
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ IPNI.  Rutherf.

External links[edit]