Thomas Graham (chemist)

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Thomas Graham
Thomas Graham Litho.JPG
Thomas Graham in 1856
Born (1805-12-21)21 December 1805
Glasgow, Scotland
Died 16 September 1869(1869-09-16) (aged 63)
Nationality Scottish
Fields Chemistry
Institutions Royal College of Science and Technology
University College London
Known for Graham's Law
Notable awards Royal Medal (1838, 1850)
Copley Medal (1862)

Thomas Graham FRS (21 December 1805 – 16 September 1869) was a nineteenth-century Scottish chemist who is best-remembered today for his pioneering work in dialysis and the diffusion of gases.

Life and work[edit]

Graham was born in Glasgow, Scotland. Graham's father was a successful textile manufacturer, and wanted his son to enter into the Church of Scotland. Instead, defying his father's wishes, Graham became a student at the University of Glasgow in 1819. There he developed a strong interest in chemistry, and left the University after receiving his M.A. in 1826. He later studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and then briefly taught chemistry at the Portland Street Medical School and at the Glasgow Mechanics' Institution. He later became a professor of chemistry at numerous colleges, including the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow (appointed 1830 as the Freeland Chair of Chemistry), the Royal College of Science and Technology and the University of London.

Graham also founded the Chemical Society of London in 1841. In 1866, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

His final position was as the Master of the Mint, where he stayed for 15 years until his death. He was the last person to hold that position.[1]

Scientific work[edit]

Thomas Graham is known for his studies on the behaviour of gases, which resulted in his formulation of two relationships, both since becoming known as "Graham's Laws," the first regarding gas diffusion,[2] and the second regarding gas effusion.[3] In the former case, Graham deduced that when measured repeatedly under the same conditions of pressure and temperature, the rate of diffusive mixing of a gas is inversely proportional to the square root of its density, and given the relationship between density and molar mass, also inversely proportional to the square root of its molar mass.[clarification needed][dubious ] In the same way, in the latter case, regarding effusion of a gas through a pin hole into a vacuum, Graham deduced that the rate of effusion of a gas is inversely proportional to the square root of its molar mass. These two are sometimes referred to as a combined law (describing both phenomena).

In applied areas, Graham also made fundamental discoveries related to dialysis, a process used in research and industrial settings, as well as in modern health care. Graham's study of colloids resulted in his ability to separate colloids and crystalloids using a so-called "dialyzer", using technology that is a rudimentary forerunner of technology in modern kidney dialysis machines. These studies the were foundational in the field known as colloid chemistry, and Graham is credited as its founder.[1]

Honours, activities, and recognition[edit]


  1. ^ a b Pallab Ghosh (2009). Colloid and Interface Science. PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-81-203-3857-9. 
  2. ^ E. L. Cussler (15 January 2009). Diffusion: Mass Transfer in Fluid Systems. Cambridge University Press. pp. 13–. ISBN 978-0-521-87121-1. 
  3. ^ James S. Trefil (2003). The Nature of Science: An A-Z Guide to the Laws and Principles Governing Our Universe. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 187–. ISBN 0-618-31938-7. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Sir John Herschel, Bt
Master of the Mint
Office abolished