|Edward C. Nicholson (1827-1890)
Photo: Maurice R. Fox, Dye-Makers of Great Britain 1856-1976,
Imperial Chemical Industries PLC, Manchester, 1987
Reproduction of Article "Edward Chambers Nicholson, F.C.S., The Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry, Vol. 9, No, 11, November 29,
1890, p. 1023:
EDWARD CHAMBERS NICHOLSON, F.C.S., A MEMBER OF THE SOCIETY OF CHEMICAL INDUSTRY.
In the year 1845 the Royal College of Chemistry had been but comparatively recently founded by Professor A. W. Hofmann. In that year two
of the Professor’s first students were appointed by him to assist him in the pursuit of his earlier brilliant researches in organic chemistry.
One of these was Edward Chambers Nicholson, the other was Frederick Augustus Abel, now Sir Frederick Abel. After a few years
Nicholson became associated with the conduct of a small chemical manufacturing business, which, under his guidance and chemical
supervision, speedily developed, and at length acquired, through his work, a very high reputation for the production of rare chemical
compounds upon a manufacturing scale. Directly after the foundation to the coal-tar colour industry had been laid by the discoveries of W.
H. Perkin, Nicholson produced upon a large scale and of a high degree of purity certain tinctorial coal-tar derivatives which speedily
acquired great commercial importance, and thus brought fame as well as profit to his firm. Turning now to a series of lectures on “ Coal-tar
colours and on recent improvements and progress in dyeing and calico printing, embodying copious notes taken at the International
Exhibition of 1862,” by the late Dr. F. Grace Calvert, delivered in Manchester, we read “ Most persons must have admired in the recent
exhibition the beautiful crowns of acetate of rosaniline exhibited by Messrs. Simpson, Maule, and Nicholson, which presented in reflected
light the green metallic lustre of cantharides’ wings.” Also further on we read “Roseine was first introduced into the trade early in 1860 by
Messrs. Simpson, Maule, and Nicholson.” Dr. Calvert later on refers to the once much used “Bleu de Lyon,” at first largely imported into
this country, but, adds Calvert, “now manufactured by Messrs. Simpson, Maule, anc Nicholson.” It is indeed refreshing to note throughout
the lectures how, through the influence of this great technological chemist, the firm, which he was raising to a position of eminence, not to
speak of affluence, held its own, and more than held its own in the race with the best continental firms representing the coal-tar colour
After a career as manufacturing chemist as brief as it was brilliant, Mr. Nicholson retired from business, and it has been a source of much
regret to those acquainted with his exceptional powers as an investigator and originator of manufacturing processes, that he thought best
to abandon the active pursuit of chemical science in the full tide of success, and when his continued labours could not have failed to be of
important benefit to the hemical industries.
Edward Chambers Nicholson died on the 23rd of October last, after a brief illness, at the age of 63 years. It is not too much to say that to his
remarkable talent for developing into successful manufacturing processes, intricate laboratory methods for the preparation of new and
rare products, England chiefly owed the high position she held in the industrial world in the early days of the coal-tar colour industry. Nor
should, in this connexion, the scientific enthusiasm or inspiration be forgotten, due to the teachings and ennobling influence of that master
of scientific instruction and original investigation, A. W. Hofmann, an influence both felt and responded to by so many of his pupils during
his directorship of the Royal College of Chemistry and subsequently in their later careers.—W. S.
|Edward C. Nicholson,