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1887 Sir William Ramsay

Sir William Ramsay

In 1887, Williamson was succeeded as Head of Department by Ramsay, another Scotsman, from Glasgow.

Ramsay was an outstanbding experimentalist. He rolled his own cigarettes, claiming that machine-made ones were unworthy of an experimentalist. He kept a platinum spatula on his watch chain for poking his students' precipitates, and he modestly ascribed his success in isolating the rare gases to his large flat thumb which could close the end of eudiometer tubes full of mercury. In 6 years he added a whole new group to the Periodic Table, and it makes a fascinating story. There is a plaque set into the wall of what is now a studio in the Slade building saying 'Here in this room in 1894, Sir William Ramsay KCBE, FRS, discovered...'