William Nicholson Author Biography Essay

For other people named William Nicholson, see William Nicholson (disambiguation).

William Nicholson (13 December 1753 – 21 May 1815) was a renowned English chemist and writer on "natural philosophy" and chemistry, as well as a translator, journalist, publisher, scientist, inventor, patent agent and civil engineer.

Early life[edit]

Nicholson was educated in Yorkshire, and after leaving school, he made two voyages as a midshipman in the service of the British East India Company. His first ship was reportedly called The Boston and the second voyage was on board The Gatton.

Subsequently, having become acquainted with Josiah Wedgwood in 1775, he moved to Amsterdam, where he made a living for a few years as Wedgwood's agent.

On his return to England he was persuaded by Thomas Holcroft to apply his writing talents to the composition of light literature for periodicals, while also assisting Holcroft with some of his plays and novels. Meanwhile, he devoted himself to the preparation of An Introduction to Natural Philosophy, which was published in 1781 and was at once successful. A translation of Voltaire's Elements of the Newtonian Philosophy soon followed, and he then entirely devoted himself to scientific pursuits and philosophical journalism.

In 1784 he was proposed by Josiah Wedgwood (the current Chairman) and appointed as secretary to the General Chamber of Manufacturers of Great Britain, and he was also connected with the Society for the Encouragement of Naval Architecture, established in 1791. He gave much attention to the construction of various machines for comb-cutting, file-making, cylinder printing and other uses—he also invented an areometer.

Scientific work[edit]

On 12 December 1783, Nicholson was elected to the "Chapter Coffee House Philosophical Society". He was proposed by Jean-Hyacinthe Magellan and seconded by horologist John Whitehurst.[1]

Nicholson communicated to the Royal Society in 1789 two papers on electrical subjects. In the same year he reviewed the controversy which had arisen over Richard Kirwan's essay on phlogiston, and published a translation of the adverse commentaries by the French academicians (Lavoisier, Monge, Berthollet, and Guyton de Morveau) as ‘An Essay on Phlogiston, to which are added Notes.’[2]

In 1797 he founded, published, and wrote part of the Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts, generally known as Nicholson's Journal, the earliest monthly scientific work of its kind in Great Britain. The journal published the first known aerodynamic analysis of gliders and heavier-than-airfixed-wingflying machines designs, by George Cayley in 1809-1810.[3] The publication continued until 1814.

In 1799 he established a school in London's Soho Square, where he taught natural philosophy and chemistry, with the aid of a grant of £1,500 from Thomas Pitt.

In May 1800 he with Anthony Carlisle discovered electrolysis, the decomposition of water into hydrogen and oxygen by voltaic current. The two were then appointed to a chemical investigation committee of the new Royal Institution. But his own interests shortly turned elsewhere.[4][5]

Besides considerable contributions to the Philosophical Transactions, Nicholson wrote translations of Fourcroy's Chemistry (1787) and Chaptal's Chemistry (1788), First Principles of Chemistry (1788) and a Chemical Dictionary (1795); he also edited the British Encyclopaedia, or Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (6 vols., London, 1809).

Later life[edit]

During the later years of his life, Nicholson's attention was chiefly directed to water supply engineering at Portsmouth, at Gosport and in Hammersmith. William Nicholson died in Bloomsbury at the age of 61 on 21 May 1815, attended by Sir Anthony Carlisle.

References[edit]

Attribution

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Nicholson, William (1753–1815)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. Largely based on the public domain Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition and Mike Chrimes, article "Nicholson, William", in Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers, vol. 1 1500–1830, 2002ISBN 0-7277-2939-X

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

William Nicholson, circa 1811
  1. ^Trevor Harvey Levere, Gerard L'Estrange Turner, Jan Golinski, Larry R. Stewart (2002) "Discussing Chemistry and Steam – The minutes of a coffee house philosophical society 1780–1787", Oxford University Press ISBN 0198515308.
  2. ^ "Nicholson, William (1753-1815)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  3. ^Cayley, George. "On Aerial Navigation" Part 1Archived 2013-05-11 at the Wayback Machine., Part 2Archived 2013-05-11 at the Wayback Machine., Part 3Archived 2013-05-11 at the Wayback Machine. Nicholson's Journal of Natural Philosophy, 1809–1810. (Via NASA).
  4. ^Golinski, Jan. "Nicholson, William". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/20153. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^Enterprise and electrolysis. Chemistry World, August 2003, Royal Society of Chemistry

William Nicholson Biography

William Nicholson was born in 1948, and grew up in Sussex and Gloucestershire. He was educated at Downside School and Christ's College, Cambridge, and then joined BBC Television, where he worked as a documentary film maker. There his ambition to write, directed first into novels, was channeled into television drama. His plays for television include Shadowlands and Life Story, both of which won the BAFTA Best Television Drama award in their year; other award-winners were Sweet As You Are and The March. In 1988 he received the Royal Television Society's Writer's Award. His first play, an adaptation of Shadowlands for the stage, was Evening Standard Best Play of 1990, and went on to a Tony-award winning run on Broadway. He was nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay of the film version, which was directed by Richard Attenborough and starred Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.

Since then he has written more films - Sarafina, Nell, First Knight, Grey Owl, and Gladiator (as co-writer), for which he received a second Oscar nomination. He has written and directed his own film, Firelight; and three further stage plays, including Map of the Heart, Katherine Howard and The Retreat from Moscow.

His novel for older children, The Wind Singer, won the Smarties Prize Gold Award on publication in 2000, and the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award in 2001. Its sequel, Slaves of the Mastery, was published in May 2001, and the final volume in the trilogy, Firesong, in May 2002.

He lives in Sussex with his wife Virginia and their three children.

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Interview

William Nicholson discusses Seeker, the first volume in a three part trilogy for teens; and talks about his life.

Although perfectly suitable and intriguing for adults, Seeker is targeted for a teenage audience. Do you feel that teens are interested in exploring the idea of the supernatural or of the supreme?

The true answer is, I don’t know. I personally was fascinated by the supernatural when I was a teenager. I think it interested me more than anything. I wanted to know what mattered most in life, what was most real and lasting, whether God existed and what God asked of me, and what sort of experiences lay beyond my immediate perceptions. Those fascinations remain with me to this day.

What might readers take from the Noble Warriors saga? Do you hope that the book will inspire some to lead more noble lives?

It may sound pompous, but yes, I do. I’ve tried to create characters who have real ideals, who want to make the world better in whatever way they can. And then I’ve tried to dramatize that journey. I was reacting to a certain extent to the superhero culture that suggests that all that’s needed to save the world is a trick power and a fancy suit. I think what’s needed is more complex, and involves more sacrifice.

In Seeker, Morning Star and Seeker are decent, unselfish, law-...

Full Interview

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