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JAMES MUSPRATT (1793-1886)

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Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 94 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JAMES MUSPRATT (1793-1886), British chemical manufacturer, was born in Dublin on the 12th of August 1793. At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a wholesale druggist, but his apprenticeship was terminated in 1810 by a quarrel with his master, and in 1812 he went to Spain to take part in the Peninsular War. Lack of influence prevented him from getting a commission in the cavalry, but he followed the British army on foot far into the interior, was laid up with fever at Madrid, and, narrowly escaping capture by the French, succeeded in making his way to Lisbon. There he joined the navy, but after taking part in the blockade of Brest he was led to desert, through the harshness of the discipline on the second of the two ships in which he served. Returning to Dublin about 1814, he began the manufacture of chemical products, such as hydrochloric and acetic acids and turpentine, adding prussiate of potash a few years later. He also had in view the manufacture of alkali from common salt by the Leblanc process, but on the one hand he could not command the capital for the plant, and on the other saw that Dublin was not well situated for the experiment. In 1822 he went to Liverpool, which was at once a good port and within easy reach of salt and coal, and took a lease of an abandoned glass-works on the bank of the canal in Vauxhall Road. At first he confined himself to prussiate of potash, until in 1823, when the tax on salt was reduced from 15s. to 2s. a bushel, his profits enabled him to erect lead-chambers for making the sulphuric acid necessary for the Leblanc process. In 1828 he built works at St Helen's and in 183o at Newton; at the latter place he was long harassed by litigation on account of the damage done by the hydrochloric acid emitted from his factory, and finally in 185o he left it and started new works at Widnes and Flint. In 1834-1835, in conjunction with Charles Tennant, he purchased sulphur mines in Sicily, to provide the raw material for his sulphuric acid; but on the imposition of the Neapolitan government of a prohibitive duty on sulphur Muspratt found a substitute in iron pyrites, which was thus introduced as the raw material for the manufacture of sulphuric acid. He was always anxious to employ the best scientific advice available and to try every novelty that promised advantage. He was a close friend of Liebig, whose mineral manures were compounded at his works. He died at Seaforth Hall, near Liverpool, on the 4th of May 1886. After his retirement in 1857 his business was continued in the hands of four of his ten children. His eldest son, JAMES SHERIDAN MUSPRATT (1821–1871), studied chemistry under Thomas Graham at Glasgow and London and under Liebig at Giessen, and in 1848 founded the Liverpool College of Chemistry, an institution for training chemists, of which he also acted as director. From 1854 to 186o he was occupied in preparing a dictionary of Chemistry .. . as applied and relating to the Arts and Manufactures, which was translated into German and Russian, and he published a translation of Plattner's treatise on the blow-pipe in 1845, and Outlines of Analysis in 1849. His original work included a research on the sulphites (1845), and the preparation of toluidine and nitro-aniline in 1845–1846 with A. W. Hofmann.
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