James 'Paraffin' Young Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Diaries and notebooks; Correspondence; Patents and legal cases; Financial papers; Technical and scientific notes; Newspaper cuttings; Educational and personal items

Administrative / Biographical History

James Young was born in Glasgow in 1811. He attended Professor Thomas Graham's chemistry lectures at Anderson's University in 1830, became Graham's Assistant in 1832 and followed him to University College, London in 1837. He became Manager of the chemical works of James Muspratt, St Helens, Lancashire in 1838, and moved to Tennants, Clow & Co of Ardwick, Manchester in 1844. In 1848 Young established an oil refinery at Alfreton, Derbyshire with James Oakes, and in 1850 he was granted a 14 year patent for a process to extract oil from cannel coal. He subsequently entered into partnership with Edward Binney and Edward Meldrum for the manufacture of oils from Boghead cannel coal at Bathgate, West Lothian, and began the sale of paraffin. Young embarked on considerable litigation against other companies who had attempted to infringe his patent. In 1865 Young bought out his business partners and a year later established Young's Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company, with new works at Addiewell, Bathgate. He also patented other industrial processes. James Young was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1861 and of the Royal Society in 1873. From 1868-1877 he was President of Anderson's University, and a great benefactor to the University. He founded the Young Chair of Technical Chemistry in 1869. He was a lifelong friend of David Livingstone, who had been a medical student at Anderson's University in the 1830s, and funded Livingstone's African expeditions. He was a keen yachtsman and made long voyages with family and friends on his yacht, 'Nyanza'. Young continued his scientific experiments in retirement, notably on the velocity of light, with Professor George Forbes of Anderson's University. In 1879 Young was awarded the degree of LL D of St Andrews University. The Young Papers were gifted to the Royal College of Science and Technology in 1959 by Miss A Thom, grand-daughter of James Young.

Conditions Governing Access

Open

Other Finding Aids

Typed list to item level

Archivist's Note

Archivist's note: Description prepared by Margaret Harrison, Web version by Graham S. Holton, Jordanhill LibraryRules or Conventions: Description based on Scottish Archive Network guidelines, based on ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000). and Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997)Date of descriptions: November 2007.

Related Material

GB 249 ODA Records of the Young Chair of Technical Chemistry

GB 249 OE Records of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College

GB 249 OP/4/36-41 Photographs of James Young

The Young Collection of rare books on chemistry and alchemy, held in the Andersonian Library, University of Strathclyde

Geographical Names