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Thomas Charles Hope

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Title: Thomas Charles Hope  
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Thomas Charles Hope

Thomas Charles Hope
Born 21 July 1766
Died 13 June 1844
Nationality Scottish
Fields Chemistry, medicine
Institutions University of Glasgow
University of Edinburgh
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
University of Paris
Thesis Tentamen inaugurale, quaedam de plantarum motibus et vita complectens (1787)
Known for Discovery of strontium
Bust of Thomas Charles Hope by Sir John Steell, Old College, University of Edinburgh

Thomas Charles Hope FRSE FRS PRCPE FFPSG (21 July 1766 – 13 June 1844) was a Scottish physician and chemist. He discovered the element strontium,[1] and gave his name to Hope's Experiment, which shows that water reaches its maximum density at 4°C.

Hope served as president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (1815–19), and as vice-president of Royal Society of Edinburgh (1823–33) during the presidencies of Walter Scott and Thomas Makdougall Brisbane.

He founded the chemical prize at Edinburgh.[2]

Charles Darwin was one of Hope's students, and Darwin viewed his chemistry lectures as highlights in his otherwise largely dull education at Edinburgh University.


  • Early life 1
  • Glasgow University and the discovery of strontium 2
  • Edinburgh and the University 3
  • Works 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6

Early life

Born in Edinburgh, the third son of surgeon and botanist John Hope and Juliana Stevenson, he was educated at the High School, the University of Edinburgh (MD 1787) and the University of Paris.[1] At Edinburgh he was a student of Joseph Black.

Hope was a nephew of the physician Alexander Stevenson FRSE.[1]

Glasgow University and the discovery of strontium

He was appointed lecturer in chemistry at the University of Glasgow in 1787, and professor of medicine in 1789.[1]

In January 1788, upon the proposal of John Walker, Daniel Rutherford and Alexander Monro, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.[1]

In 1791-2 Hope discovered the chemical element strontium and named it after Strontian, the west highland village where he found strontianite. In the experiment that bears his name Hope determined the maximum density of water and explained why icebergs float.

Edinburgh and the University

Hope was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1788 and served as its Vice President from 1822 to 1833.[3]

In 1795 Hope was selected by Joseph Black as his assistant (1795–1799) and eventual successor to the professorship of medicine and chemistry (1799–1843) at the University of Edinburgh. Hope’s goal was to more fully combine the practice of medicine with his chemical instruction.

In 1800 Hope won the annual Edinburgh Arrow archery competition.

In 1804 he became a member of the Highland Society.[1]

In May 1810 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.[4]

Between 1824–40 Hope worked with scientists based in Poissy, France. With the major Jean-François Senincourt, he tried to establish a university in the town. Within a few years his aims began to be realised as medical students crowded his lectures.

In the 1830s he is listed as living at 31 Moray Place, a huge townhouse in the Moray Estate on the western edge of Edinburgh's New Town.[5]

In 1843 he resigned the professorship and died in Edinburgh in 1844.


  • Hope, Thomas Charles. An account of a mineral from Strontian: and of a peculiar species of earth which it contains. p. 39. 
  • Hope, Thomas Charles. "On the beads for ascertaining the specific gravity of liquid". Transactions of The Highland & Agricultural Society ( 
  • Hope, Thomas Charles; Rutherford, Daniel; Duncan, Andrew (1796). Thomas Charles Hope lectures: on Chemistry. p. 280. 
  • Hope, Thomas Charles; University of Edinburgh (1833). Summary of a memorial to be presented to the Right Honourable the Lord Provost ...: respecting the institution of a professorship of practical chemistry in the University of Edinburgh. p. 17. 


  1. ^ a b c d e f Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002: Biographical Index (PDF) I. Edinburgh:  
  2. ^ Dictionary of National Biography. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society of London. Retrieved 20 November 2010. 
  5. ^
  • Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh
  • Hope's apparatus
  • His page in the Gazetteer for Scotland

Further reading

  • Doyle, W. P. (1982). Thomas Charles Hope, M.D., F.R.S.E., F.R.S., (1766–1844). Scottish men of science. History of Medicine and Science Unit, University of Edinburgh. 
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