William Grylls Adams

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William Grylls Adams
Born18 February 1836 Edit this on Wikidata
Laneast Edit this on Wikidata
Died10 April 1915 Edit this on Wikidata (aged 79)
Broadstone Edit this on Wikidata
OccupationPhysicist, astronomer, philosopher edit this on wikidata

William Grylls Adams FRS (18 February 1836 in Laneast, Cornwall – 10 April 1915) was professor of Natural Philosophy at King's College, London.[1]

William Grylls Adams was a younger brother of John Couch Adams (1819–1892). He graduated from St. John's College, Cambridge as 11th Wrangler in 1855.[2][3] He undertook a teaching post at Highgate School in 1864.[4]

In 1839, Alexandre Edmond Becquerel (1820–1891) had discovered that illumination of one of two metal plates in a dilute acid changed the electromotive force (EMF).[5] In 1876, Adams and Richard Evans Day discovered that illuminating a junction between selenium and platinum has a photovoltaic effect.[6][7] This first demonstrated that electricity could be produced from light without moving parts and led to the modern solar cell.

From 1878 to 1880 he was President of the Physical Society of London. In June 1872 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and in 1875 delivered their Bakerian Lecture.[8] He was president of the Institution of Electrical Engineers and of the mathematical and physical section of the British Association.[9]


  • Solar Heat: A Substitute Fuel for Tropical Countries, Bombay, 1878; Chadwyck-Healey Ltd., 2001
  • The action of light on selenium, 1875
  • On the action of light on tellurium and selenium, 1876
  • Simultaneous magnetic disturbances
  • Alternate current machines
  • Testing of dynamo machines


  1. ^ "Adams, William Grylls". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 17.
  2. ^ "Adams, William Grylls (ADMS855WG)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ "Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society - Oxford Academic". OUP Academic. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  4. ^ Ed. Boreham, J.Y. Highgate School Register 1838-1938 (4th ed.). p. xxvi.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 May 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Search - The Encyclopedia of Earth". Eoearth.org. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  7. ^ Smith, Zachary Alden; Taylor, Katrina D. (28 July 2018). "Renewable and Alternative Energy Resources: A Reference Handbook". ABC-CLIO. Retrieved 28 July 2018 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
  9. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Adams, William Grylls" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.

William Grylls Adams in libraries (WorldCat catalog)