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History - People - Alexander W Williamson

Alexander W Williamson

Alexander W Williamson
(1824 - 1904)

Head of Department : 1855 - 1887

Williamson, the third Head of Department, was, like his predecessors, a Scot. He obtained his Ph.D. under Justus Liebig at Giessen. After the death of Fownes, he took charge of the Birbeck Laboratory. It was during these early years at UC that he was most active, publishing many papers, the most important being that on 'ætherification'. This research established the formula H 2 O for water, and clarified the relation of ether to alcohol, and both to water - thereby laying down one of the great foundations of the theory of structure in organic chemistry, and of the true system of atomic and molecular weights. His name is still associated with the synthesis of ethers by reaction of alkoxides with alkyl halides.

He took over both chairs of Chemistry when Graham left, and played a leading part in College administration. He was responsible for inaugurating a Faculty of Science and was instrumental in starting the B.Sc. Degree in the University of London.

More information on Williamson is available through the Chemical History of UCL and at the FECS Website .

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This page last modified 20 September, 2010

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