Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe

Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe was born in London in 1833. His 'proclivity to chemistry' was spotted while a student at University College London, from which he graduated in 1853.

He proceeded to Heidelberg the same year, to work with Robert Bunsen, who became a lifelong friend. Shortly after returning to the UK, at the age of 24, Roscoe was appointed professor of chemistry at Owens College, Manchester, where he continued the work he had begun in Germany on the photochemical action of light.

He was to remain at Owens College for 30 years, overseeing the growth of the chemical school from just 15 students to 120 by 1885. As well as his work on photochemistry, in 1867 Roscoe extended his researches to an investigation of vanadium and its compounds, and devised a process for preparing the pure metal, not contaminated by oxygen and nitrogen. He also authored papers on niobium, tungsten, perchloric acid and the solubility of ammonia, as well as writing several popular textbooks, translated into several languages. Roscoe's Letters in Elementary Chemistry passed through several editions in the UK and overseas, while the Treatise on Chemistry, co-authored with his former private assistant Carl Schorlemmer, became a standard text.

Roscoe served as SCI president from 1881 to 1882, and went on to become MP for Manchester South a few years later. He received a knighthood in 1884 and was vice-chancellor of London University from 1896 to 1902. He died in 1915.

And finally, one interesting fact noted on Wikipedia: he was also the uncle of Beatrix Potter.

Image: See page for author, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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