University banner

300 Years of Achievement

The enduring accomplishments of the School can be traced back to the unique cradle of learning, built by a series of enlightened teachers, and cultivated in the cosmopolitan City of Edinburgh.

The first Chair was established in 1713 with the appointment of James Crawford, and in Britain is predated only by the 1702 Chair of Chemistry at Cambridge.

The Edinburgh Chair of Chemistry has since had a number of illustrious occupants, including the renowned Joseph Black (Professor of Chemistry, 1766–1799) who discovered carbon dioxide gas and latent heat.

Professor James Crawford Drawing of Joseph Black
James Crawford Joseph Black

The 1713 Chair of Chemistry stands as a symbol of how Edinburgh has seeded the modern science of chemistry across the globe. With its unique position, interwoven at the interfaces of Medicine, Physics, and Engineering, the growth of chemistry through the 18th and 19th centuries fuelled the industrial revolution and growth of the economy.

By the turn of the 19th century, Edinburgh had created the most popular School of Chemistry, attracting scholars from Europe and the New World. The student Chemical Society at Edinburgh University is the world's oldest chemical society (1785) and is still going strong today. Edinburgh Chemistry students have made both fundamental and far-reaching contributions to chemistry theory and practice.

Our Milestones

Click on an image for more information.

First demonstration of artificial refrigeration using a pump (Cullen, 1756)Discovery of carbon dioxide gas, and its production in respiration and fermentation (Black, 1754)Isolation and naming of first known compound of strontium, after the village of Strontian in Argyll, Scotland (Adair-Crawford, 1790; Thomas Hope, 1791-3)Determination of the temperature of the maximum density of water above freezing (Hope, 1804)First isolation of morphine hydrochloride (Gregory, 1831) leading to the first commercial productionGraham's Law of effusion (Graham, 1831);Discovery of the formation of carbon–carbon chemical bonds (Couper, 1858) Development of graphical formulae to represent the structure of molecules, with atoms labelled as letters and bonds as lines, still in use today (Crum Brown, 1861)Kendall's dilution law for weak electrolytes (Kendall, 1928)

Colleges and Departments Founded by Alumni

University of Pennsylvania crest Benjamin Rush, was the first Professor of Chemistry at Pennsylvania College in 1768 (now University of Pennsylvania) and signatory to the US Declaration of Independence
Yale University crest Benjamin Silliman, first Professor of Chemistry at Yale University in 1802, and first to demonstrate fractional distillation of petroleum.
University of Melbourne crest John Macadam, first lecturer in Chemistry at University of Melbourne in 1862, and whose name inspired the Macadamia nut
Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceutical logo Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray: known as the Father of Indian Chemistry, founder of Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals in 1893