Ramsay/Brill Letters

Scope and Content


14 xeroxed letters from Sir William Ramsay to Dr Otto Brill, 1906-1911

2 xeroxed letters from Lady Margaret Ramsay to Miss Brill, n.d.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Ramsay studied at Glasgow University from 1866 to 1869. In 1870 he went to Heidelberg intending to study under R W von Bunsen, but early in 1871 moved to Rudolf Fittig's laboratory in Tbingen, where he was awarded a PhD for research on Toluic and nitro-toluic acids. In 1872 Ramsay returned to Glasgow as an Assistant in Young's laboratory of technical chemistry. In 1880 he became Professor of Chemistry at University College Bristol and in the following year he was made Principal of the Unversity. He married Margaret Buchanan in 1881. In 1887 Ramsay succeeded Alexander William Williamson in the Chair of General Chemistry, University College London, which he held until his retirement in 1912. Ramsay discovered argon in 1894, helium in 1895 and krypton, neon and xenon (with Morris W Travers) in 1898. In 1900 he visited India to report on the proposed Indian University of Research. He worked with Dr Frederick Soddy on radium in 1903 and with Robert Whytlaw-Gray on radon in 1909-1912.

Otto Brill was born on 27 September, 1881 in Pardubitz, in what is now the Czech Republic. He studied at the Teelmische Hochschule, Vienna; Gttingen and Berlin Universities and obtained his doctorate (Dr Ing) from Vienna in 1904. Early in 1904 Sir William Ramsay had taken delivery of a Nernst microbalance from Spindler and Hoyer, Gttingen. Brill used this balance for several studies, including the atomic weight of radium, when he carried out research in Ramsay's laboratory at University College, London. He spent two short periods in this laboratory during the sessions 1906-1907 and 1907-1908, starting on 23 Oct 1906 and finally leaving at the end of Jun 1908. Each year he paid a fee of six guineas, plus a registration fee of one guinea but was not working for a London degree.

Access Information


Open subject to usual conditions.

Acquisition Information

Gift from Agatha Sadler (daughter of Brill), Sep 1998.

Other Finding Aids

Brief collection level description