Andrews, Thomas

Thomas Andrews (1813 - 1885)

Thomas Andrews was born in Belfast he was the son of a Belfast linen merchant. He was described as 'a modest, silent boy with a great capacity for general knowledge'. He had published the first of his many scientific papers in the Philosophical Magazine and the Annals of Philosophy entitled 'On the action of a flame urged by the blowpipe on other flames' at age 15. Shortly after this his second publication 'On the detection of Baryta or Strontia when in union with Lime' appeared in the same journal.

He started his formal study of chemistry in 1828 at Glasgow University under Thomas Thomson and continued it later in Paris where he worked in the laboratories of J. B. Dumas and L. J. Thenard, where he learned chemical analysis from these most distinguished French analytical chemists. Returning to Dublin he took a B.A. degree at Trinity College Dublin before completing his medical studies in Edinburgh. At 23 he became a physician in Belfast, as well as professor of chemistry at the Belfast Academical Institute ('Inst'). His medical commitments in the next ten years meant he had little time for experimentation but he still managed to publish a number of scientific papers.

When the Queen's College opened in 1845, he became its first professor of chemistry, as well as its Vice-President. An outstanding experimentalist he was the first to show that ozone is another form of oxygen. Using narrow bore, thick glass capillary tube to contain gases under extreme conditions of temperature and pressure he was able to show that Boyle's Law did not apply in these extreme conditions. He established the crucial concept of critical temperature and critical pressure. His discoveries led to the liquefaction of all gases, some of which previously had been thought not to be able to exist as liquids. Internationally recognised, he was elected to many scientific academies, and in 1867, became president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Further reading: P. G. Tait and A. Crum Brown: The Scientific Papers of Thomas Andrews with a memoir, Macmillan, London, 1889.

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