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Papers of John Ferguson

Collection Summary

Reference Code

GB 0248 DC 251



Extent and medium of the unit of description

0.5 metres

(3 boxes)

Existence and Location of Originals

This material is original.

Name of creator

Ferguson | John | 1837-1916 | professor of chemistry, University of Glasgow

Biographical History

Biographical History

John Ferguson ( 1837-1916) was Regius Professor of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow. He wrote widely on the subject of chemistry his major work being Bibliotheca Chemica: a Catalogue of the Alchemical, Chemical and Pharmaceutical Books in the Collection of the Late James Young of Kelly and Durris , (1906).

Ferguson studied at the University of Glasgow from 1855-1864. He received a BA in 1861 and an MA the following year. After this he continued his studies, finishing in the Medical Faculty as a means to the study of Chemistry. He won a number of prizes at University including the Ewing Gold Medal for his essay Historical Account of the Papacy as a Temporal Power in Europe, (1862-1863), the Gartmore Gold Medal for The Advantages & Disadvantages of Federal Government, (1863-1864) and he twice won the Watt prize for essays entitled On Cohesion and Electricity & Magnetism from the Middle of the Last Century, (1862-1863). Ferguson studied Natural Philosophy under Professor William Thomson (Baron Kelvin), and Chemistry with Professor Thomas Anderson. From 1864 until 1868, he worked as University Assistant to Professor Anderson with charge of tutorial classes and laboratory supervision. In 1869, Professor Anderson was taken seriously ill and Ferguson undertook the general running of the department for the year of his absence. During this time that the University moved from the High Street to Gilmorehill and Ferguson planned the new Chemistry Laboratories. Anderson died in 1874 and Ferguson became his successor.

Nick-named "Soda" due to his caustic personality, Ferguson's main research interest was the history of chemistry. He wrote widely on it at a time when there was no academic outlet for the History of Science. He was often published in the Proceedings of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow. He also amassed a large collection of books and manuscripts on the subject of alchemy. Later in life he became Honorary Curator of the Hunterian Library at the University of Glasgow.

Ferguson was President of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow from 1892-1895 and President of the Glasgow Archaeological Society in 1892-1893. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1888, the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1890, the Chemical Society of London in 1872 and the Royal Institute of Chemistry in London in 1878. He was awarded an LLD by the University of St Andrews in 1887. He belonged to several learned societies in Europe and was an honorary member of the Imperial Military Academy of Petrograd.

Scope and Content

Scope and Content

The papers of John Ferguson consist of:

  • testimonials ( 1874)
  • private correspondence ( 1880-1916)
  • photographs ( 1880-1916)
  • articles ( 1884-1930)
  • diaries ( 1895-1916)
  • testamentary records ( 1916-1923)




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