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THOMSON, Thomas.

(1773 – 1852)

(Born: Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland, 12 April 1773; Died: Kilmun, Argyleshire, Scotland, 2 July 1852) Scottish physician, chemist & mineralogist.

Thomson was educated at the Universities of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. After receiving the degree of M.D. in 1799, he established himself in Edinburgh as an instructor in chemistry. From 1796 to 1800, he was sub-editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and the chemical and mineralogical articles he contributed to the supplement of the third edition formed the basis of his popular System of Chemistry (1st ed., 1802). In 1813, he relocated to London and founded and began editing the Annals of Philosophy, then in 1817, he became lecturer in chemistry at Glasgow University. In 1818, Thomson was appointed to the regius professorship at the University, a post he held until his death. Through his chemistry textbooks, he did much to spread the atomic theory of Dalton.

Biographical references: Annual Register. BBA: I 1080, 56-89; II 1802, 316. Berzelius, J.J., Lettres éditées au nom de l'Académie Royale des Sciences de Suède par H.G. Söderbaum. Supplément édité par Arne Holmberg. Lettres de Berzelius à Thomas Thomson et Alexandre Brongniart. Uppsala, Almqvist et Wiksells, 1935. 24 p. Biographie Universelle: 41, 421. Cleevely, World Palæontological Collections, 1983: 287. Cole, Chemical Literature, 1988: 530. Crum, W., "Sketch of the life and labours of Dr. Thomas Thomson", Proceedings of the the Philosophical Society of Glasgow, 3, (1855), 250-64. DNB: 56, 271-2 [by A. Harden]. DSB: 13, 372-4 [by J.B. Morrell]. Eminent Scotsmen: 3, 452-5, portrait. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition. Gentleman's Magazine: 1852, no. 2, 202-6. ISIS, 1913-65: 2, 546. Kent, A., ed., An eighteenth century lecturship in chemistry. Essays and bicentenary addrsses relating to the Chemistry Department (1747) of Glasgow University (1451). Glasgow, 1950. [Published as: Glasgow University Publications, no. 82.] [see pages 176-90]. Klickstein, H.S., "Thomas Thomson. Pioneer historian of chemistry", Chymia, 1, (1948), 37-53, portrait. Livingstone, Minerals of Scotland, 2002: p. 30-2, portrait. Mauskopf, S.H., "Thomson before Dalton. Thomas Thomson's considerations of the issue of combining weight proportions prior to his acceptance of Dalton's chemical atomic theory", Annals of Science, 25, (1969), 229-42. Morrell, J.B., "The chemist-breeders: the research schools of Liebig and Thomas Thomson", Ambix, 19, (1972), 1-46. Morrell, J.B., "Thomas Thomson: professor of chemistry and university reformer", British Journal for the History of Science, 4, (1969), 245-65. Partington, History of Chemistry, 1961-70: 3, 716-21, portrait. Partington, J.R., "Thomas Thomson, 1773-1852", Annals of Science, 6, (1949), 115-26. Poggendorff: 2, cols. 1097-1100. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London: 1851, 240-1. Quarterly Journal of Geological Society of London: 9 (1853), xxvii. Sarjeant, Geologists, 1980: 3, 2263-4. Schaedler, Biographisch Handwörterbuch, 1891: 134-5. Thomson, R.D., "Biographical notice of the late Thomas Thomson", Glasgow Medical Journal, 5, (1857), 69-80, 121-53, 379-80, portrait. WBI. Wehefritz, Bibliography of Chemistry, 1994: 3, 1528-30. World Who's Who in Science: 1670.

Outlines of Mineralogy, 1836

1. English, 1836.
Outlines | of | Mineralogy, Geology, | and | Mineral Analysis. | By Thomas Thompson, M.D. | [...8 lines of titles and memberships...] | In Two Volumes. | Vol. I [-II] | [rule] | London: | Baldwin & Cradock. | MDCCCXXXVI.

2 vols. [Vol 1] 8°: [i]-viii, [1]-726, [2] p.; [Vol 2] 8°: [iii]-vii, [1], [1]-566 p. (Missing half title?). Page size: 218 x 130 mm.

Contents: [Vol 1] [i-ii], Title page, verso "Glasgow:-E. Khull, Printer to the University."; [iii]-v, "Preface."; [vi], Blank.; [vii]-viii, "Contents. Vol I."; [1], "Outlines of Mineralogy and Geology."; [2], Blank.; [3]-21, "Part I. Of Mineralogy. Introduction."; [22], Blank.; [23]-43, "Arrangement and Description of Minerals."-being a synopsis of the classification scheme.; 44-667, Descriptive mineralogy.; [668], Blank.; [669]-726, "Appendix."; [727], Errata.; [1 pg], Blank.

[Vol 2] [i-ii], [Half title page, verso blank; this was not present in the copy examined.]; [iii-iv], Title page, verso "Glasgow:-E. Khull, Printer to the University."; [v]-vii, "Contents."; [viii], Blank.; [1]-345, Part II. Of Geology."; [346], Blank.; [347]-354, "Part III. Of the Method of Analyzing Minerals. Introduction."; 355-438, "Book I. Of the Analysis of Oxydized Bodies."; 439-553, "Book II. Of the Analysis of Metallic Ores."; [554], "Note."; [555]-566, "Index."

Scarce. The articles "Mineralogy," "Chemistry," "Meteorology" and "Animal and Vegetable Substances" written by Thomson for the Supplement to the third edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (London, 1800-1) were collected together an enlarged and reissued in 1802 as his System of Chemistry (see related works below). This was the first extensive treatise on chemistry written in Great Britain, and it had enormous popularity, with seven editions being issued between 1802 and 1831. Within the second portion of the work, mineralogical bodies are arranged according to an artificial classification consisting of six classes based on physical and chemical properties, as well as a natural system that organized the stones, salts, combustibles and ores. Ultimately, the System was split into separate works on inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, heat and electricity and mineralogy. The last, which was ten years in preparation, was published in 1836 as Outlines of Mineralogy, Geology, and Mineral Analysis. The objective of the work was to promote the advancement of mineralogical chemistry by collecting numerous facts from scattered sources together with much original research, and meld them into a cohesive system, in which new discoveres could be reported. In support, Thomson determined the chemical constitution of all the known mineral species that he could procure through the same ridgid chemical analysis. His procedures are fully described in the third section of the text. As a result of this paradigm, Thomson discovered many new species, which are described in these volumes for the first time. Here, also, Thomson has published a foundation of research that provided the best and longest list of chemical compositions of minerals written to that time, and foreshowed the importance chemistry would play in mineralogy in the coming decades. This is highlighted by the fact that the minerals are arranged on the basis of their chemical composition and not by their physical properties as was typical of the time. In addition, Thomson provides in the second section of the text, interesting observations on the chemical compostion of various rocks, anticipating the importance of geochemistry.

The text of the Outlines is divided into three parts: I. Description of all known minerals.; II. Account of nature and position of different rocks in the crust of the earth.; III. Detailed methods by which minerals may be analyzed.

Related work: A | System | of | Chemistry. | In Four Volumes. | [double rule] | By Thomas Thomson, M.D. | Lecturer on Chemistry in Edinburgh. | [double rule | Vol. I. [-IV.] | [rule] | Edinburgh: | Printed for Bell & Bradfute, and E. Balfour; G. & J. Robinson, London; - and | Gilbert & Hodges, Dublin. | [rule] | M.DCCC.II.

4 vols. 8°: [i]-xvi, [1]-503 p.; [i]-viii, [1]-514 p.; [i]-viii, [1]-528 p.; [i]-viii, [1]-570, [2] p., 4 engraved plates.

This 1802 issue is the first edition of Thomson's most popular work. `As the first systematic treatise of a non-elementary kind to break the French monopoly of such works, Thomson's system tried patriotically to do justice to the contribution made by British chemists to the new chemistry' (DSB). First published when Thomson was 28, the work was written during his time as a lecturer at Edinburgh University. The only previous comparable work was that of Fourcroy - his large treatise Systême des Connaissances Chimique (Paris, 1801-2), which `lacked an adequate use of important and numerous English soucres' (Partington, p. 719). A System of Chemistry went through several editions each revised and expanded (2nd, 1804; 3rd, 1807; 4th, 1810; 5th, 1817; 6th, 1820; 7th, 1831), attesting to its' enormous popularity as a clear and concise introduction to the subject, and it remained for many years a standard work. The treatise also received the accolade of being itself translated into French, with a preface by Berthollet.

Bibliographical references: BL [970.h.28.]. BMC: 5, 2100. Cole, Chemical Literature, 1988: nos. 1278-1283. Dana's 7th (Bibliography): 81. NUC [NT 0190838-45]. Partington, History of Chemistry, 1961-70: 3, 719.