William Hampson (born 14 March 1854 in Bebington, Merseyside (formerly: Cheshire), England – died 1 January 1926 in Holland Park, London, England) was the first person to patent a process for liquifying air.
William Hampson was born on 14 March 1854, the second son of William Hampson of Puddington, Cheshire, England. He was educated at Liverpool College, Manchester Grammar School and Trinity College, Oxford, where he matriculated in October 1874. He studied classics, graduating with a second class degree. He then joined the Inner Temple in London to qualify as a barrister (trial attorney).
There is no record of Hampson's enrolment in a course of physics or engineering; he therefore seems to have educated himself in science and engineering.
Liquefaction of air
In 1895, Hampson filed a preliminary patent for an apparatus to liquify air. His apparatus was simple: A compressor raised the pressure of a quantity of air to 87–150 atmospheres. The high-pressure air was then passed through cylinders that contained material which removed water and carbon dioxide from the air. The dried air then passed through a copper coil and exited through a nozzle at the end of the coil, which reduced the air's pressure to one atmosphere. After expanding through the nozzle, the air's temperature would drop greatly (due to the Joule-Thomson effect). The cold air then flowed back over the coil, chilling the air that was flowing through the coil. As a result, within 20–25 minutes, the apparatus would begin to produce liquified air. The apparatus typically measured approximately one cubic metre.
Hampson's method of liquifying gases was adopted by Brin's Oxygen Company of Westminster, London, England (renamed the "British Oxygen Company" in 1906). In 1905, the company acquired Hampson's three patents on the liquefaction and separation of atmospheric gases.
From Brin's Oxygen Company, which retained Hampson as a consultant, Hampson provided William Ramsay with the liquid air that allowed Ramsay to discover neon, krypton, and xenon, for which Ramsay received the Nobel Prize in chemistry of 1904.
In 1900–1901, Hampson also conducted adult education courses; specifically, a series of lectures at the University College in London. From these lectures came two books: Radium Explained (1905) provided a lay audience with an account of recent developments in research on radioactivity, while Paradoxes of Nature and of Science (1906) presented scientific curiosities that were contrary to common experience; e.g., how ice could be used as a source of heat.
Hampson also became interested in medical science. He became a licensed apothecary in 1896, and by 1910 he was practising in several London hospitals. In 1912, he published his research on a crude pacemaker. The system electrically stimulated large muscles of the body to contract regularly; pulses of blood were thus forced towards the heart and these pulses would then cause the heart to synchronise with the external electrical stimulator. Hampson also made a minor improvement to X-ray tubes.
Hampson also ventured into economics. He published a book on the subject: Modern Thraldom: A New Social Gospel (1907). Hampson regarded credit—broadly interpreted as debt or borrowing in any form—as responsible for many of an economy's ills. He prescribed a world in which there would be no credit, interest, mortgages, or rents. All sales would be in cash; debts would not be legally recognised; factories would be run as a cooperative of their workers. The national government would be funded by a sales tax, and the national economy would be sheltered from foreign competition.
He married Amy Bolton.
- Who Was Who, Published by A&C Black Limited. Online edition, 2020
- Davies (1989), pp. 63–64.
- Davies (2009), p. 64.
- W. Hampson, "Improvements relating to the progressive refrigerating of gases", British patent 10,165, preliminary filing: 23 May 1895, patented: 25 March 1896.
- Thomas O'Conor Sloane, Liquid Air and the Liquefaction of Gases (London, England: Sampson, Low, Marston, and Co., Ltd., 1899). The third edition (New York City: Norman W. Henley Publishing Co., 1920) is available on-line at Google Books. For a description and diagrams of Hampson's apparatus, see: pages 320–324.
- Davies (2009), p. 64.
- W. Hampson (1897) "Letters to the Editor: Liquefaction of air by self-intensive refrigeration," Nature, 55 : 485.
- W. Hampson (1898) "Self-intensive refrigeration of gases: liquid air and oxygen," Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry, 17 : 411–421. (See also the "Discussion" section at the end of this paper, in which Hampson and Prof. James Dewar argue heatedly.)
- Hampson filed for patents on other refrigerative processes:
- William Hampson, "Apparatus for separating mixed gases by refrigeration, especially applicable to separation of oxygen from air," U.S. patent no. 620,312 (filed: 10 October 1896 ; issued: 28 February 1899). (See also: British patent 7,559 of 1896.)
- William Hampson, "Improvements in the process and apparatus for the self-intensive refrigeration of gases by expansion and counter-current interchange," British patent no. 7,773 (filed: 1 April 1898 ; issued: 21 March 1899). A brief description of this patent appears in: "Refrigeration of gases … ," Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry, 18 : 355–356 (29 April 1899).
- U.S. patent for refrigerator using ammonia vapor: William Hampson, "Refrigerating apparatus," U.S. patent no. 607,849 (filed: 10 October 1896 ; issued: 26 July 1898).
- Linde, Carl, "Verfahren zur Verflüssigung atmosphärischer Luft oder anderer Gase" (Method for the liquefaction of atmospheric air or other gases), Deutsches Reichspatent 88824, filed: 5 June 1895.
- See also: C. von Linde (1899) "Zur Geschichte der Maschinen für der Herstellung flüssiger Luft" (On the history of machines for the production of liquid air), Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 32 : 925–927. In this article, von Linde disputes Hampson's priority.
- Brin's Oxygen Company was founded by brothers Arthur and Leon Brin. Their plant was located on Horseferry Road in Westminster, London, England.
- Davies (2009), p. 66.
- Davies (2009), p. 65.
- Morris William Travers, The Discovery of the Rare Gases (London, England: Edward Arnold and Co., 1928), pages 89, 93–94, 98, 115.
- Morris William Travers, A Life of Sir William Ramsay (London, England: Edward Arnold and Co., 1956), pages 172–176.
- W. Hampson, Radium Explained: A popular account of the relations of radium to the natural world, to scientific thought, and to human life (London, England: T.C. & E.C. Jack, 1905).
- W. Hampson, Paradoxes of Nature and Science: Things which appear to contradict general experience or scientific principles, with popular explanations of the how and why (London, England: Cassell and Co., 1906).
- W. Hampson (1912) "A method of reducing excessive frequency of the heart-beat by means of rhythmical muscle contractions electrically provoked," Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 5 : 119–124.
- "The Bauer valve," Roentgen Society's Journal, 5 : 32–33 (March 1909).
- William Hampson, Modern Thraldom: A New Social Gospel (London, England: Wells Gardner & Co., 1907).
- Mansel Davies (2009) "William Hampson (1854–1926): A Note," British Journal for the History of Science, 22 (1) : 63–73.
- Encyclopedia.com: Hampson, William
- "Hampson, William" in: Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Charles C. Gillispie, ed. (New York City: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1972), vol. 6, page 93.