Thomas Graham (chemist)

Thomas Graham FRS FRSE (20 December 1805[1] – 16 September 1869) was a Scottish chemist known for his pioneering work in dialysis and the diffusion of gases. He is regarded as one of the founders of colloid chemistry.[2]

Thomas Graham
Lithograph portrait of Thomas Graham in 1856
Thomas Graham in 1856
Born20 December 1805
Glasgow, Scotland
Died16 September 1869 (aged 63)
London, UK
Known forGraham's Law
AwardsRoyal Medal (1838, 1850)
Copley Medal (1862)
Scientific career
InstitutionsAnderson's Institution
University College London
Thomas Graham (chemist) signature


Graham was born in Glasgow, and educated at Glasgow High School. Graham's father was a successful textile manufacturer, and wanted his son to enter into the Church of Scotland. Instead, defying his father's wishes, Graham became a student at the University of Glasgow in 1819. There he developed a strong interest in chemistry, studying under Professor Thomas Thomson, who was impressed and influenced by the young man. He left the University after receiving his MA in 1824.[3]

He later studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and then briefly taught chemistry at the Glasgow University Portland Street Medical School. In 1828 he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, his proposer was Edward Turner. He won the Society's Keith Medal for the period 1831–33.[3]

in 1830 he was appointed to be the first professor of chemistry at the Anderson's Medical School, a post later named the Freeland Chair of Chemistry. He also delivered lectures to the Glasgow Mechanics' Institution before moving to take up a professorship at the University of London, where Graham founded the Chemical Society of London in 1841. In 1866, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

His final position was the Master of the Mint, where he stayed from 1855 until his death. He was the last person to hold that position.[4]

He died in Gordon Square in London but his body was returned to Glasgow for burial in the family plot at Glasgow Cathedral.[3]

He did not marry and had no children.


  • On the Law of Diffusion of Gases (1833)

Scientific work

Thomas Graham is known for his studies on the behaviour of gases, which resulted in his formulation of two relationships, both since becoming known as "Graham's Laws," the first regarding gas diffusion,[5] and the second regarding gas effusion.[6] In the former case, Graham deduced that when measured repeatedly under the same conditions of pressure and temperature, the rate of diffusive mixing of a gas is inversely proportional to the square root of its density, and given the relationship between density and molar mass, also inversely proportional to the square root of its molar mass. In the same way, in the latter case, regarding effusion of a gas through a pin hole into a vacuum, Graham deduced that the rate of effusion of a gas is inversely proportional to the square root of its molar mass. These two are sometimes referred to as a combined law (describing both phenomena).

In applied areas, Graham also made fundamental discoveries related to dialysis, a process used in research and industrial settings, as well as in modern health care. Graham's study of colloids resulted in his ability to separate colloids and crystalloids using a so-called "dialyzer", using technology that is a rudimentary forerunner of technology in modern kidney dialysis machines. These studies were foundational in the field known as colloid chemistry, and Graham is credited as one of its founder.[4]

Honours, activities, and recognition

See also


  1. ^ "Thomas Graham | British chemist". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  2. ^ "Colloid | Physics". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  4. ^ a b Pallab Ghosh (2009). Colloid and Interface Science. PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-81-203-3857-9.
  5. ^ E. L. Cussler (15 January 2009). Diffusion: Mass Transfer in Fluid Systems. Cambridge University Press. pp. 13–. ISBN 978-0-521-87121-1.
  6. ^ James S. Trefil (2003). The Nature of Science: An A-Z Guide to the Laws and Principles Governing Our Universe. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 187–. ISBN 978-0-618-31938-1.

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Sir John Herschel, Bt
Master of the Mint
Office abolished
Robert Lowe as Chancellor of the Exchequer
1805 in Scotland

Events from the year 1805 in Scotland.

1805 in science

Significant events in 1805 in science and technology are listed.


In medicine, dialysis (from Greek διάλυσις, dialysis, "dissolution"; from διά, dia, "through", and λύσις, lysis, "loosening or splitting") is the process of removing excess water, solutes, and toxins from the blood in people whose kidneys can no longer perform these functions naturally. This is referred to as renal replacement therapy.

Dialysis is used in patients with rapidly developing loss of kidney function, called acute kidney injury (previously called acute renal failure), or slowly worsening kidney function, called Stage 5 chronic kidney disease, (previously called chronic kidney failure and end-stage renal disease and end-stage kidney disease).

Dialysis is used as a temporary measure in either acute kidney injury or in those awaiting kidney transplant and as a permanent measure in those for whom a transplant is not indicated or not possible.In the United Kingdom and the United States, dialysis is paid for by the government for those who are eligible. The first successful dialysis was performed in 1943.

In research laboratories, dialysis technique can also be used to separate molecules based on their size. Additionally, it can be used to balance buffer between a sample and the solution "dialysis bath" or "dialysate" that the sample is in. For dialysis in a laboratory, a tubular semipermeable membrane made of cellulose acetate or nitrocellulose is used. Pore size is varied according to the size separation required with larger pore sizes allowing larger molecules to pass through the membrane. Solvents, ions and buffer can diffuse easily across the semipermeable membrane, but larger molecules are unable to pass through the pores. This can be used to purify proteins of interest from a complex mixture by removing smaller proteins and molecules.

Gaseous diffusion

Gaseous diffusion is a technology used to produce enriched uranium by forcing gaseous uranium hexafluoride (UF6) through semipermeable membranes. This produces a slight separation between the molecules containing uranium-235 (235U) and uranium-238 (238U). By use of a large cascade of many stages, high separations can be achieved. It was the first process to be developed that was capable of producing enriched uranium in industrially useful quantities.

Gaseous diffusion was devised by Francis Simon and Nicholas Kurti at the Clarendon Laboratory in 1940, tasked by the MAUD Committee with finding a method for separating uranium-235 from uranium-238 in order to produce a bomb for the British Tube Alloys project. The prototype gaseous diffusion equipment itself was manufactured by Metropolitan-Vickers (MetroVick) at Trafford Park, Manchester, at a cost of £150,000 for four units, for the M. S. Factory, Valley. This work was later transferred to the United States when the Tube Alloys project became subsumed by the later Manhattan Project.

List of University of Glasgow people

The following list of University of Glasgow people provides a selection of the well-known people who have studied or taught at the University of Glasgow since its inception in 1451. Historical lists of Chancellors, Rectors and Principals of the University are contained in those offices' respective articles.


In physics and engineering, permeation (also called imbuing) is the penetration of a permeate (such as a liquid, gas, or vapor) through a solid. It is directly related to the concentration gradient of the permeate, a material's intrinsic permeability, and the materials' mass diffusivity. Permeation is modeled by equations such as Fick's laws of diffusion, and can be measured using tools such as a minipermeameter.

Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow

The Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow is a learned society established in 1802 "for the improvement of the Arts and Sciences" in the city of Glasgow, Scotland. It runs a programme of lectures, starting its 217th Series in October 2018. The Society formerly owned a building on Bath Street, but since 1994 has been accommodated within the University of Strathclyde.

Thomas Graham

Thomas Graham may refer to:

Thomas Graham, 1st Baron Lynedoch (1748–1843), British politician and soldier

Thomas Graham (chemist) (1805–1869), Scottish chemist

Thomas Graham Jr. (born 1933), nuclear expert and senior U.S. diplomat

Thomas Graham Jr. (American football)

Sir Thomas Graham (barrister) (1860–1940), South African lawyer and politician

Thomas Graham (footballer, born 1887) (1887–1967), English football centre forward

Thomas Graham (apothecary) (1666–1733), apothecary to King George I and George II

Thomas N. Graham (1837–1911), Union Army soldier in the American Civil War and Medal of Honor recipient

Thomas Graham (diplomat), American diplomat

Tommy Graham (footballer, born 1905) (1905–1983), English international footballer

Tommy Graham (Scottish footballer) (born 1958), Scottish football forward

Tom Graham (rugby union) (1866–1945), Wales national rugby player

Tommy Graham (Australian rules footballer) (1886–1933), Australian rules footballer

Thomas Edward Graham, Baron Graham of Edmonton (born 1925), known as Ted Graham, British Labour Co-operative politician

Tommy Graham (singer), Canadian singer and record producer

Tommy Graham (1943–2015), Scottish Member of Parliament for Renfrew West and Inverclyde

Tom Graham (American football) (1950–2017), American football player

Tom Graham (volleyball) (born 1956), Canadian volleyball player

Tommy Graham, editor of History Ireland magazine

Tom Graham, a pseudonym of Sinclair Lewis

University of Strathclyde

The University of Strathclyde is a public research university located in Glasgow, Scotland. Founded in 1796 as the Andersonian Institute, it is Glasgow's second-oldest university, with the university receiving its royal charter in 1964 as the UK's first technological university. It takes its name from the historic Kingdom of Strathclyde.

The University of Strathclyde is Scotland's third-largest university by number of students, with students and staff from over 100 countries. The institution was awarded University of the Year 2012 and Entrepreneurial University of the year 2013 by Times Higher Education. The annual income of the institution for 2017–18 was £304.4 million of which £68.9 million was from research grants and contracts, with an expenditure of £304.0 million.Entry into many of the courses in the university is competitive and successful entrants in 2015 had an average of 480 UCAS points. It is also one of the 39 old universities in the UK comprising the distinctive second cluster of elite universities after Oxbridge.

Copley Medallists (1851–1900)

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