William Cruickshank (chemist)

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William Cruickshank

William Cruickshank (died 1810 or 1811) was a Scottish military surgeon and chemist, and professor of chemistry at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.

William Cruickshank was awarded a diploma by the Royal College of Surgeons of England on 5 October 1780. In March 1788 he became assistant to Adair Crawford at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, at a salary of £30 a year. On 24 June 1802, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).[1]

Discoveries and inventions[edit]


Some authors credit Cruickshank with first suspecting an unknown substance in a Scottish mineral, strontianite, found near Strontian, in Argyleshire. Other authors name Adair Crawford for the discovery of this new earth, due to the mineral's property of imparting a redding color to a flame.[2] It was later isolated by Humphry Davy and is now known as strontium.[3][4]


Cruikshank worked with John Rollo at Woolwich in the 1790s, and some of his discoveries about diabetes were published in Rollo's book on the dietary treatment of the condition.[1] This research led him to isolate urea in 1798, though his priority was not recognised at the time.[5]

Trough battery[edit]

Circa 1800, Cruickshank invented the Trough battery, an improvement on Alessandro Volta's voltaic pile. The plates were arranged horizontally in a trough, rather than vertically in a column.[6]

Retirement and death[edit]

In March 1803, Cruickshank became very ill and it is possible that this was due to exposure to phosgene during his experiments. On 6 July 1804, he retired on a pension of 10 shillings a day. He died in 1810 or 1811 and military records state that the death occurred in Scotland.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Watson, K. D. "Cruickshank, William". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/57592.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ A Handbook to a Collection of the Minerals of the British Islands... by Frederick William Rudler publ. HMSO (1905) page 211(available digitized by Google)
  3. ^ Weeks, Mary Elvira (1932). "The discovery of the elements: X. The alkaline earth metals and magnesium and cadmium". Journal of Chemical Education. 9 (6): 1046–1057. doi:10.1021/ed009p1046. 
  4. ^ Partington, J.R. (1942). "The early history of strontium". Annals of Science. 5 (2): 157. doi:10.1080/00033794200201411. 
  5. ^ (in French) Joseph Schiller, Wöhler, l'urée et le vitalisme, Sudhoffs Archiv Bd. 51, H. 3 (1967), pp. 229-243, at p. 231. Published by: Franz Steiner Verlag. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20775601
  6. ^ Electricity by Robert M Ferguson, publ. Chambers (1873) page 169 (available digitized by Google).

External links[edit]