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History of chemistry material to be conserved by University of St Andrews


Historical materials and manuscripts relating to the history of chemistry at the University of St Andrews are to be conserved, thanks to a grant from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust, with support from the Pilgrim Trust.

The restoration project will restore a number of items to good condition, including a 19th-century Periodic Table of the Elements which is believed to be the only surviving example of this version of the table.

The table, which is an early printed version of Dmitri Mendeleev's periodic table, was used as a teaching aid in one of the lecture theatres of the University of St Andrews. It shows Ga (Gallium), discovered in 1875, and Sc (Scandium), discovered in 1879, but not Ge (Germanium), which was found in 1886.  This makes it possible to date the table to between 1879 and 1886. The noble gases have been added in chalk.

The University Library’s Special Collections division are asking for help to date the table more accurately and anyone who can help is asked to get in touch by e-mail.

Historic chemistry manuscripts

The project will also conserve manuscripts acquired for the University of St Andrews by John Read, Professor of Chemistry at St Andrews from 1923 to 1963, and scholar of the history of science, including alchemical manuscripts and volumes of notes of Joseph Black’s lectures which were made in the 1770s by Henry Beaufoy whilst a student at Edinburgh University.

Joseph Black (1728-1799) was a lecturer in Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, 1756 to 1766; Regius Professor of Anatomy and Botany, 1756, and Regius Professor of Practice of Medicine from 1757 to 1766. 

Black originated the theory of specific and latent heat, in which he collaborated with his friend James Watt.  However he published very little and his great discoveries were communicated in his lectures, which were not published until after his death in 1799.

Follow the progress of the project via the University of St Andrews Special Collections blog.

About the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust

The National Manuscripts Conservation Trust helps preserve important manuscript and archive collections by awarding grants for their conservation.

Since the NMCT was founded in 1990 it has awarded grants of nearly £3 million which have enabled the conservation of hundreds of musical, literary, architectural and other vital historical documents that would otherwise have been lost or faced an uncertain future. The NMCT is the only UK grant-giver that focuses solely on the care and conservation of manuscripts in the UK.

Find out more at the website.

(image copyright University of St Andrews Special Collections)

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