Thomas Hope, Lectures on Chemistry

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 1521
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      51 folios, Medium: paper Binding: the folios are unbound.
  • Location
      Collection available at The John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

Contents: Hope's lectures on chemistry delivered at the University of Edinburgh during the academic year 1805-6. The compiler of the notes cannot be confirmed, but it was possibly the chemist William Henry (1774-1836), the father of Charles Henry, who donated the notes to the Library, who was known to be studying in Edinburgh in 1805.

The manuscript is unbound and is split in several section so unbound papers as follows:

  • 1: "Variation of boiling point", 2 December [1805], 4 fos.
  • 2a: "Steam, latent caloric of", 4 fos.
  • 2b: "Gases" 8 December, 2 fos.
  • 3: "Theory of spontaneous evaporation; condensation of atmospheric moisture; Hygrometer; Connexion between light and heat; Incandescence or Ignition"; Discussion of Herschell-Pictet-Leslie" Analysis of solar rays; Pictet's experiment [Prob. Marc-Auguste Pictet, 1752-1825]; Calorific rays: radiation of caloric; radiation of heat", 9, 111, 12 December, 11 fos.
  • 4: "Radiation of heat and cold emanations" 14 fos.
  • 5: "Gen[era]l facts of chemical action" 8 fos.
  • 6: "Technical language" 8 fos.
. Section 6 includes a note added at a later sate, presumably by William Henry in 1822, concerning Dalton's atomic theory, and William Higgins' challenge to their originality. Indicates that Hope's views was that Dalton's theory had "the full merit of originality".

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Hope (1766-1844), was born on 21 July 1766 in Edinburgh, the son of John Hope (1725-1786), a professor of botany at the University of Edinburgh, and his wife, Juliana, daughter of Dr Stevenson, an Edinburgh physician.

Hope was educated at Edinburgh High School, before going to Edinburgh University where he studied botany and chemistry. In 1787, he graduated MD, and was appointed lecturer in chemistry and materia medica at Glasgow University through the patronage of his uncle, Alexander Stevenson, who was professor of medicine there. On Stevenson's death in 1791 Hope succeeded to the chair of medicine, which he held until October 1795. In 1793 Hope announced the discovery of a new chemical element, strontium [named after the village of Strontian in the Scottish Highlands]. Joseph Black, professor of chemistry and medicine at Edinburgh, was much impressed by Hope's work, and engineered his appointment as assistant professor at Edinburgh in 1795. In 1797-8 Hope over Black's lecturing duties and succeeded him as professor of medicine and chemistry in 1799.

For the next three decades Hope was a leading figure in Edinburgh scientific and medical circles, including the Royal College of Physicians, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In his early years at Edinburgh, Hope was noted as an innovative and popular lecturer; he promoted the ideas of Antoine Lavoisier, as well as the geological theories of James Hutton. His lectures were well-attended by Edinburgh students (including Charles Darwin) and earned Hope significant fee income. Hope also continued original research work of his own; in 1805 he announced that the maximum density of water occurs not at the freezing point, 32°F, but around 39°F.

During the 1820s, Hope found himself challenged by competitors, including David Boswell Reid (1805-1863), who advocated more teaching of applied chemistry. Hope successfully resisted attempts to create a second chair in chemistry at Edinburgh but by the 1830s his reputation was in decline. In 1843 he retired from his chair and died the following year.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The manuscript was donated to the Owens College Library by Charles Henry, William Henry's son, probably in 1851 [no accession reference].

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the manuscript can be supplied for private research and study purposes only, depending on the condition of the manuscript.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the manuscript. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, The John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Related Material

The Library also has a collection of manuscripts of Hope's mentor, James Black (uncatalogued). Hope's own papers are held by the University of Edinburgh Special Collections (Coll. 12).

Notes of Hope's lectures are very widely dispersed ; they can be found at the Bodleian Library (MS Eng misc d 197), Osler Library, McGill University, Montreal, the National Library of Scotland (MSS.2768-9), the Royal College of Physicians, London, the Science Museum Library and Archive (MS 422), and the Wellcome Library (MS.2942).


The biographical note for this manuscript has used Jack Morrell, 'Hope, Thomas Charles (1766-1844)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 23 July 2016]

Geographical Names