Lot 11: Alexander William Williamson FRS (1824-1904) English chemist
October 29, 2016
Wells, ME, USA
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Description: Alexander William Williamson FRS (1824-1904) English chemist of Scottish descent. He is best known today for the Williamson ether synthesis. Williamson is credited for his research on the formation of unsymmetrical ethers by the interaction of an alkoxide with a haloalkane, known as the Williamson ether synthesis. He regarded ether and alcohol as substances analogous to and built up on the same type as water, and he further introduced the water-type as a widely applicable basis for the classification of chemical compounds. The method of stating the rational constitution of bodies by comparison with water he believed capable of wide extension, and that one type, he thought, would suffice for all inorganic compounds, as well as for the best-known organic ones, the formula of water being taken in certain cases as doubled or tripled. In 1863 five students from the Chōshū clan were smuggled out of Japan, which was a closed society. At the time, the laws of the Edo period made travel to another country a capital offence. After reaching London, they were placed under the guidance of Professor Williamson. He and his wife Catherine welcomed them, taught them English, introduced them to western society, and arranged for them to study Chemistry at University College London. Ito Shunsuke (later Ito Hirobumi), Endo Kinsuke and Nomura Yakichi (later Inoue Masaru) lived with the Williamsons, while Inoue Monta (later Inoue Kaoru), and Yamao Yozo lived nearby. They all later served in the Japanese government, and made enormous scientific and social contributions to the modernisation of Japan. Fourteen more international Japanese students, from the Satsuma clan, later worked with Williamson beginning in 1865. ALS, 1874, 2pp, black page mounted to another sheet. VG.
Condition Report: VG