William Hyde Wollaston

Infobox Scientist
name = William Hyde Wollaston

image_width =
birth_date = birth date|1766|08|06
birth_place = East Dereham, Norfolk, England
death_date = death date and age|1828|12|22|1766|08|06
death_place = Chislehurst, England
nationality = United Kingdom
field = Chemical physics
work_institutions =
alma_mater =
doctoral_advisor =
doctoral_students =
known_for = Discoveries of palladium and rhodium
influences =
influenced =
prizes = Copley Medal (1802)
footnotes =

William Hyde Wollaston FRS (August 6, 1766 – December 22, 1828) was an English chemist and physicist who is famous for discovering two chemical elements and for developing a way to process platinum ore.


Wollaston was born in East Dereham, Norfolk, the son of the priest-astronomer Francis Wollaston (1737-1815) and his wife Mary Farquier. In 1793 William obtained a doctorate in medicine from Cambridge University. During his studies there he became interested in chemistry, crystallography, metallurgy and physics. The mineral wollastonite is named after him. In 1800 he left medicine and concentrated on pursuing these interests instead of his trained vocation.

Wollaston died in 1828 and was buried in Chislehurst, England.


Wollaston is perhaps best known as a chemist. He became wealthy by developing the first physico-chemical method for processing platinum ore in practical quantities, and in the process of testing the device he discovered the elements palladium (symbol Pd) in 1803 and rhodium (symbol Rh) in 1804.

Anders Gustav Ekeberg discovered tantalum in 1802, however, William Hyde Wollaston declared it was identical with niobium. Latern Heinrich Rose proved in 1846 that niobium and tantulum were indeed different elements.

Wollaston also performed important work in electricity. In 1801, he performed an experiment showing that the electricity from friction was identical to that produced by voltaic piles. During the last years of his life he performed electrical experiments that would pave the way to the eventual design of the electric motor. However, controversy erupted when Michael Faraday, who was undoubtedly the first to construct a working electrical motor, refused to grant Wollaston credit for his earlier work.

His optical work was important as well, where he is remembered for his observations of dark Fraunhofer lines in the solar spectrum (1802) which eventually led to the discovery of the elements in the Sun. He invented the camera lucida (1807), the reflecting goniometer (1809), and the Wollaston prism. He also developed the first lens specifically for camera lens called Wollaston's meniscus lens, or just meniscus lens, in 1812. The lens was designed to improve the image projected by the camera obscura. By changing the shape of the lens, Wollaston was able to project a flatter image, eliminating much of the distortion that was a problem with many of that day's biconvex lenses.

Wollaston used his Bakerian lecture in 1805, "On the Force of Percussion", to defend Gottfried Leibniz's principle of "vis viva", an early formulation of the conservation of energy. Wollaston was too ill to deliver his final Bakerian in 1828 and dictated it to Henry Warburton who read it on November 20.

Wollaston also served on a royal commission that opposed adoption of the metric system (1819), and one that created the imperial gallon.

Honours and awards

;Honours and awards
*Fellow of the Royal Society, 1793.
**Secretary, 1804-1816.
**President, briefly in 1820.
**Royal Medal, 1828.

* Wollaston Medal
* Wollastonite, a chain silicate mineral
* Wollaston Lake, in Saskatchewan, Canada
* Wollaston, a lunar impact crater

Further reading


External links

* [http://www.platinummetalsreview.com/dynamic/article/view/47-4-175-183 Rhodium and Palladium Events Surrounding Their Discoveries]
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=uDsJAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA308&dq=wollaston+hyde&as_brr=1#PPA311,M1 William Hyde Wollaston] - "Dictionary of National Biography", Sidney Lee (editor), New York: Macmillan, 1900 (volume 62, pages 311-316)

NAME=Wollaston, William Hyde
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Scientist, physicist
DATE OF BIRTH=1766-08-06
PLACE OF BIRTH=East Dereham, Norfolk, England
DATE OF DEATH=1828-12-22

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • William Hyde Wollaston — noun English chemist and physicist who discovered palladium and rhodium and demonstrated that static and current electricity are the same (1766 1828) • Syn: ↑Wollaston • Instance Hypernyms: ↑chemist, ↑physicist …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Wollaston,William Hyde — Wol·las·ton (wo͝olʹə stən), William Hyde. 1766 1828. British chemist and physicist who discovered palladium (1803) and rhodium (1804). * * * …   Universalium

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  • Wollaston, William Hyde — SUBJECT AREA: Metallurgy [br] b. 6 August 1766 East Dereham, Norfolk, England d. 22 December 1828 London, England [br] English chemist and metallurgist who discovered palladium and rhodium, pioneer in the fabrication of platinum. [br] Wollaston… …   Biographical history of technology

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