Prof. Thomas Charles Hope

1766 - 1844

Chemist. Born in Edinburgh, the son of John Hope (1725-86), Professor of Botany at the University of Edinburgh. Hope was raised in High School Yards and educated the Old High School there. Hope studied medicine at the University of Glasgow and then taught chemistry, becoming Professor of Chemistry in 1787. He returned to Edinburgh to take the Chair in Chemistry in that university in 1795. There he was a colleague of Joseph Black (1728-99), whom he succeeded as senior professor on Black's death and remained in this post until 1843. Hope inspired the young Charles Darwin with his chemistry lectures.

Hope is credited with the discovery of the element Strontium (1793), naming it after the place where it was found, Strontian in Argyll. He described the characteristic red colour when its compounds are introduced into a flame. Hope was also the first to show that water expands when frozen and that it attains its maximum density a few degrees above its freezing point (3.98°C). He published these results in his paper "Experiment on the contraction of water by heat" (1805) which is now known as Hope's Experiment.

Hope was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1788 and served as a Vice President between 1822 and 1833.

Hope maintained interests in natural history and was a member of the Wernerian Natural History Society, strongly supporting the Neptunist theories of Abraham Werner, who believed all rocks were deposited from a great primaeval ocean.

Hope worked with Thomas Telford (1757 - 1834) to improve the public water supply in Edinburgh and was awarded the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh in 1817. He lies buried in the churchyard of Greyfriars Kirk.

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