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Sir William Ramsay

Sir William RamsayAKA Sir William Ramsay, Jr.

Born: 2-Oct-1852
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Died: 23-Jul-1916
Location of death: High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England
Cause of death: Cancer - other [1]
Remains: Buried, Hazlemere Church Graveyard, Buckinghamshire, England

Gender: Male
Religion: Anglican/Episcopalian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist

Nationality: Scotland
Executive summary: Discovered noble gases

British chemist William Ramsay discovered a previously unknown class of inert, rare, or noble gases. He studied under Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, and predicted that dense gasses were hidden, invisible and as yet undetected in the Earth's atmosphere. To test his idea, he designed an experimental means to remove oxygen and nitrogen from the air, and analyzing what remained in collaboration with Lord Rayleigh he found the previously unknown element argon (Ar) in 1894. He later spectroscopically confirmed the existence of helium, which had first been observed by Pierre Janssen. From the established positions of argon and helium on the periodic table of elements, Ramsay guessed that more unknown gasses exist, and discovered krypton, neon, and xenon in 1898. Working with chemist Robert Whytlaw-Gray (1877-1958) he discovered radon in 1900. In 1903, working with Frederick Soddy, Ramsay showed that the radioactive decay of radium produces helium, a discovery which laid the groundwork for the subsequent development of nuclear physics. In 1904 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, while his colleague Rayleigh won the Nobel Prize in Physics in the same year.


[1] Nasal cancer.

Father: William Ramsay (civil engineer)
Mother: Catharine Robertson Ramsay
Wife: Margaret Buchanan (m. 1881)

    High School: Glasgow Academy, Glasgow, Scotland
    University:
BS Organic Chemistry, University of Glasgow
    University: University of Heidelberg (attended, 1871)
    University: PhD Chemistry, University of Tübingen (1872)
    Teacher: Applied Chemistry, Anderson's University, Glasgow (1872-80)
    Teacher: University of Glasgow (1875-80)
    Professor: Chemistry, Bristol University (1880-87)
    Administrator: Principal of the College, Bristol University (1881-87)
    Professor: Inorganic Chemistry, University College London (1887-1913)

    Athenaeum Club (London)
    Davy Medal 1895
    Knighthood 1902:(Order of the Bath)
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1904
    Matteucci Medal 1907
    Royal Society 1888
    Scottish Ancestry

Author of books:
A System of Inorganic Chemistry (1891, chemistry)
The Gases of the Atmosphere (1896, chemistry)
Modern Chemistry (1900, chemistry, 2 volumes)
Introduction to the Study of Physical Chemistry (1904, chemistry)
Elements and Electrons (1913, chemistry)


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