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Dr. William Thomson, F.R.S., a Forgotten English Mineralogist, 1761 – c.1806

Nature volume 143, pages 667668 (22 April 1939) | Download Citation



WILLIAM THOMSON led two lives which seem never to have been correlated, certainly not in England. The first life culminated in his appointment as Dr. Lee's lecturer in anatomy at Oxford and his election into the Royal Society on March 16, 1786. The signatories to his certificate of candidature were the Hon. Charles Greville, Prof. R. Kirwan, John Hunter, S. F. Simmons, W. Pitcairn, Sir J. E. Smith, D. Pitcairn and Prof. T. Hornsby of Oxford. In 1790, he resigned all appointments, including the fellowship for which he had compounded on election. His second life was mostly spent in Naples during that pregnant period when Nelson and the British fleet featured so largely in all histories of Europe. There Thomson made a profounder study of volcanic phenomena than any Englishman, even counting Sir William Hamilton, had ever made before him.

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  1. 1.

    Journal de Physique, 39, 407 (1791).

  2. 2.

    "Breve notizie di un viaggiatore sulle incrostazioni silicee". Giornale Letteraria di Napoli, 41, 39–51; Crell's Annalen, 1, 108 (1796).

  3. 3.

    "Breve catalogo di alcuni prodotti ritrovati nell'ultima eruzione del Vesuvio (1794)". Giorn. Lett., 41, 51–55.

  4. 4.

    "Abbozzo di una sciagrafia volcanica". Giorn. Lett., 41, 59–81.

  5. 5.

    "Notice sur le Marbre blanc du Vésuve". Giorn. Lett., 89, 98–102.

  6. 6.

    "Sur l'origine de l'oxygène nécessaire pour entretenir le feu souterrain du Vèsuve". Giorn. Lett. (1798).

  7. 7.

    "Sul ferro malleabile trovato da Pallas (1804)". Atti Accad. Siena, 9, 37–57.

  8. 8.

    , "Voyages physiques dans la Campanie" (1801).

  9. 9.

    "Personal Narrative" (English translation, 1822), 222, 236 Also "Cosmos" v, Otte's translation, 482.

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