William Gregor

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William Gregor
Born (1761-12-25)25 December 1761
Trewarthenick, Cornwall, England
Died 11 June 1817(1817-06-11) (aged 55)
Creed, Cornwall, England, UK
Nationality British
Alma mater Bristol Grammar School then St John's College, Cambridge
Known for Titanium
Scientific career
Fields Mineralogy

William Gregor (25 December 1761 – 11 June 1817) was the British clergyman and mineralogist who discovered the elemental metal titanium.

Early years[edit]

He was born at the Trewarthenick Estate in Cornwall, the son of Francis Gregor and Mary Copley[1] and the brother of Francis Gregor, MP for Cornwall.[2] He was educated at Bristol Grammar School, where he became interested in chemistry, then after two years with a private tutor entered St John's College, Cambridge, graduating BA in 1784 and MA in 1787.[3] He proceeded to the MA and was ordained in the Church of England. He became vicar of St Mary's Church Diptford[1][4] near Totnes, Devon. He married Charlotte Anne Gwatkin in 1790 and they had one daughter.

Discovery of titanium[edit]

After a brief interval at Bratton Clovelly, William and his family moved permanently to the rectory of Creed in Cornwall. Here, he began a remarkably accurate chemical analysis of Cornish minerals. In 1791, while studying ilmenite from the Manaccan valley, he isolated the calx of an unknown metal which he named manaccanite.[1] Later in 1791, Martin Heinrich Klaproth discovered what is now known as titanium in the mineral rutile. Believing this to be a new discovery, Klaproth named it titanium after the Titans of Greek Mythology, but eventually it was clarified that Gregor made the discovery first. Gregor was credited with the discovery, but the element kept the name chosen by Klaproth. Gregor later found titanium in corundum from Tibet, and in a tourmaline from a local tin mine. Titanium is now used for many things. Titanium is a transition metal with the atomic number of 22 and atomic mass 47.867.

Death and legacy[edit]

Gregor was an original member of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall in 1814.[1] Never letting his scientific work interfere with his pastoral duties, he was also a distinguished landscape painter, etcher and musician. He died of tuberculosis on 11 June 1817 and was buried in a nearby churchyard.


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