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Celebrity Drawings by John Moss

Scientists & Discoverers of Manchester

John Ferriar

John Ferriar


Born in 1761 at Oxnam in Roxburghshire, John Ferriar was a famous
physician in Manchester, as well as a writer and literary critic.
He had studied medicine at Edinburgh University, graduated in
1781, and worked in a practice in Stockton-on-Tees, before moving
to Manchester around 1785.
In 1789 Ferriar was appointed physician at Manchester Infirmary,
where he introduced many reforms and practices to help in the
healthy recovery of patients. His campaigning led to the establishment
of a Board of Health, the prohibition of cellars as living quarters,
limits on domestic overcrowding and many other sanitary reforms
which improved the health and living conditions of the poor
people of Manchester. He established the concept of the isolation
ward for serious infectious diseases (the “fever ward”), both
in the Infirmary and at the Stockport hospitals. He advocated
shorter working hours, restrictions on child labour, and the
introduction of public baths to improve hygiene.
He also wrote 4 volumes of medical histories. His literary interests
were many. He became a member of the Manchester Literary and
Philosophical Society soon after his arrival in Manchester,
and here he presented many learned papers, most of which were
subsequently published. His works include the paper “Of Popular
Illusions” , an essay on the dramatist Massinger, and “Illustrations
of Sterne” . By the time of his death in 1815 the Manchester
Infirmary had developed into a modern effective hospital with
an unparalleled reputation in the cure of fevers, and the control
of epidemics. He is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard, and the
memorial plaque to his memory was removed when St Marys was
demolished, and is now located in St
Ann’s Church
in Manchester.

Peter Mark Roget

Roget's Thesaurus
Roget’s Thesaurus


Peter Mark Roget is best known for his “Thesaurus” nowadays,
though he was also one of the many famous physicians at the
Manchester Infirmary – and this was his primary work. He was
born in London in 1779, the son of a Swiss pastor of a French
Protestant Church in Threadneedle Street, London’s celebrated
banking area. Roget studied Medicine and Mathematics at Edinburgh
University, and graduated as Doctor of Medicine in 1798, aged
just 19 years. As a young doctor he published several works
on consumption (tuberculosis), and wrote on the effects of the
newly discovered chemical nitrous oxide (known as “laughing
Gas” and a major anaesthetic). On the death of Thomas
, the chief surgeon, in 1804, Roget was offered
the post, which he held from then until 1808. During this time
he worked to found the Manchester Medical School. He also lectured
on medical topics, and spoke at the Literary & Philosophical
Society, where he was vice-president for 2 years. He was also
the first secretary at the newly formed Portico Library, where
Manchester intellectuals gathered to read newly published works.
From 1808, Roget left Manchester and went to work in London,
where he continued lecturing on medical topics. He worked at
the Medical School in Windmill Street, and at the Northern Dispensary.
He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, and later its secretary,
and continued to write and to introduce several original inventions.
In 1840 he was effectively retired from medicine, but most of
his remaining years were to be spent compiling his now world
famous “Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases” , first published
in 1852, and with 28 editions and reprints during his lifetime.
Roget’s Thesaurus is still being printed today, and his name
has become synonymous with that work.

John Dalton

John Dalton

John Dalton was born
to a Quaker family in Eaglesfield near Cockermouth in the English
Lake District in 1766. His formal education is unknown, though
he was taught science in the evenings by Elihu Robinson. Robinson
and his friend, the philosopher Gough, were to be instrumental
in developing Dalton’s interest in science and natural philosophy.
An intelligent boy, he actually taught at Eaglesfield School
when aged just 12, and later he and his brother were appointed
teachers at a school in Kendal.
At the age of 27 his reputation as a promising young scientist
had so grown that he was offered a
professorship in mathematics and natural philosophy at the New
College in Mosley Street in Manchester. In the same year, 1799,
he published his first book “Meteorological Observations and
Essays” , which contained many ideas which were to form the
basis of his later work on the study of gases, and from which
he was to derive his fundamental laws of chemistry. Although
the college was moved to York in 1799, Dalton elected to remain
in Manchester, and made a living by privately teaching mathematics
at his home in Faulkener Street (now in the heart of Manchester’s
Chinatown), and later in the basement of the Society of Friends
Meeting House in George Street.

A bachelor who lived modestly, Dalton
carried out most of his research here, imposing upon himself
a strict working regime. His only recreation was a game of bowls
on Thursday afternoons at the Dog & Partridge pub. He shared
accommodation for 26 years with the Reverend William Johns and
his family at number 10 George Street, but he lived alone at
27 Faulkener Street towards the end of his life. Shortly after
arriving in Manchester, Dalton had joined the Literary & Philosophical
Society, where he delivered his first paper on colour-blindness
(of which some forms are still known as “Daltonism”). This was
followed by four other essays dealing with discoveries he had
made about the constitution of gases, evaporation, heat expansion,
meteorology and steam power. His further experiments led to
the formation of his Atomic Theory, for which he is universally
best known. The result of this theory was the tabulation of
atomic weights and a mathematical basis for chemistry, which
had hitherto been haphazard and rather ad hoc.
In time he became president of the Literary & Philosophical
Society, and he continued to present papers on his scientific
discoveries for many years. In 1833 the British Association
offered him a pension, and he was to receive many more honours
in his later life; these included Honorary Doctorates at the
Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh.

Upon his death he was given a virtual
state funeral – his body lay in state in the
Town Hall
, where it was visited by upwards of 40,000 people,
and a hundred coaches followed the funeral cortege to Ardwick
Cemetery, where he lies buried. He has a street named after
him in the city centre, a statue of him is placed in the Town
Hall entrance, and another stands outside the former Dalton
College of Technology (now part of Manchester Metropolitan University)
in Oxford Street. He is also the subject of one of Ford
Madox Brown’s
murals in the Manchester Town Hall.

On 7 June
2007, the Royal Society of Chemistry honoured John Dalton,
when Professor Paul O’Brien, Head of School of Chemistry at
the University of Manchester and RSC council member presented
the RSC Chemical Landmark plaque to Professor Michael Lappert,
Fellow of the RSC and current owner of John Dalton’s Cottage
in Eaglesfield near Cockermouth, Cumbria.

William Sturgeon

William Sturgeon


William Sturgeon, the celebrated electrician and physicist,
was born in 1783 at Whittington near Kirkby Lonsdale. He had
little formal education, but was apprenticed as a shoemaker.
He gave up this to enlist in the Westmorland Militia, and joined
the Royal Artillery 2 years later. During this time he taught
himself Mathematics, Latin and Greek, intending to study of
natural science, for which he deemed these three elements essential.
Inspired by a bad thunderstorm, he began to investigate electrical
discharges such as lightening, a study which he continued after
leaving the army, and while holding various teaching posts in
Addiscombe. One of these posts was with the East India Company’s
Military Academy, where he lectured on electro-magnetism, as
well as publishing his findings in scientific magazines.
In 1840 he was appointed to the post of Superintendent of the
Royal Victoria Gallery of Practical Science in Manchester, to
“stimulate research and foster inventive talent”. This institution
was to produce many promising students, including James
Prescott Joule
, who contributed to the Annals of Electricity
magazine, which was edited by Sturgeon. Sturgeon lectured on
many scientific topics, including optics, magnetism and electromagnetism;
he was popular with his audiences because of the clear delivery
and presentation of his material. However, the Victoria Gallery
ran out of money and closed down in 1842, leaving Sturgeon without
means or a job, and his life descended into poverty, supported
by occasional revenues from one-off lectures.

In 1847 he was given a grant of �200
by the Royal Bounty Fund, to which a government pension of �50
a year was added later. This was insufficient for his needs,
however, and he died penniless, better known in Europe than
in his native England. He had been responsible for the invention
of the electromagnet, itself fundamental to many later inventions
which could not have been made without it – among them the telegraph
and the telephone. A monument to him, “a poor man of science”,
is placed in Kirkby Lonsdale Church in the Lake District, which
commemorates many of his inventions and discoveries.

Hans Geiger

Hans geiger, the Geiger Counter

Born Johannes Wilhelm Geiger, physicist Hans Geiger was born
in Neustadt, Germany, in 1882. In 1902 he studied physics in
Munich and Erlangen and attained his doctorate in 1906 before
moving to Manchester to study under
in 1907. In 1912 he became leader of the Physical-Technical
Reichsanstalt in Berlin, in 1925 was appointed professor in
Kiel, and by 1936 was working in Berlin. While there, together
with the graduate student Walter Muller, he developed, his Geiger
Geiger did most of the original so-called “Rutherford scattering”
experiment with Marsden – as a result of this work he devised
his ionisation counter. Together with Walter Miller he developed
this into the Geiger counter. He was one of the discoverers
of the Geiger-Nuttal law and performed experiments that lead
to Rutherford’s atomic model. He was also a member of the Uranverein
(Uranium Club) in Nazi Germany. This was the group of German
physicists who worked to develop a German atomic bomb.
It is thought that Geiger held an unwavering loyalty to the
Nazi Party and it is alleged that this led him to betray many
of his Jewish colleagues.



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This page last updated 20 Jan 12.