James Finlay Weir Johnston

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James Finlay Weir Johnston, FRS FRSE (13 September 1796 – 18 September 1855) was a Scottish agricultural chemist[1] and mineralogist.


Born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Johnston was educated at University of Glasgow, where he studied Theology and graduated MA.

Johnston founded a grammar school in Durham in 1825,[2] which later merged with other local schools, such as Brandon and Bowburn, to form a single comprehensive school for the area, named Durham Johnston Comprehensive School, preserving James Finlay Weir Johnston's name.[1]

He acquired a fortune at the time of his marriage in 1830, and was able to devote himself to studying chemistry. He visited the chemist J. J. Berzelius in Sweden and was a co-founder of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.[3]

In 1832 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, his proposer being Thomas Charles Hope. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1837.[4]

He was appointed reader in Chemistry and Mineralogy at Durham University on its foundation in 1833, but continued to reside in Edinburgh out of term.[2] From 1847, his assistant was Augustus Voelcker who also lectured in agricultural chemistry at Durham University.[5]

Johnston died in Durham on 18 September 1855.[1]


He wrote the Catechism of Agricultural Chemistry (1844), since translated into most European languages, and the Chemistry of Common Life (1853–1855).


In 1830 he married the daughter of Thomas Ridley of Durham.[6]


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