Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ansell, George Frederick

ANSELL, GEORGE FREDERICK (1826–1880), scientific inventor, was born at Carshalton on 4 March 1826. He was apprenticed for four years to a surgeon, and studied medicine with the intention of adopting a medical life as his profession, but abandoned it for chemistry. After undergoing a course of instruction at the Royal College of Chemistry, he became an assistant to Dr. A. W. Hofmann at the Royal School of Mines. In 1854 he gave lectures in chemistry at the Panopticon in Leicester Square, London, but that institution did not last long, and Mr. Ansell accepted from Mr. Thomas Graham, in November 1856, a situation in the Royal Mint. He remained in this office for more than ten years, when differences of opinion between him and its chiefs led to the loss of his position. After his retirement and until his death, which took place on 21 Dec. 1880, he practised as an analyst. Mr. Ansell devoted much attention to the dangers arising from firedamp in collieries, and made a valuable series of experiments on the subject in the Ince Hall colliery near Wigan. The 'firedamp indicator,' which he subsequently patented, has been adopted with considerable success in many of the collieries on the continent. For the cyclopædia of Mr. Charles Tomlinson he wrote treatise on coining — one hundred copies of which were struck of for private circulation — and his work on the 'Royal Mint' was an amplification of this article. This volume first appeared in 1870, and was reissued in the next year; its popularity was somewhat marred by the introduction of the narrative of his quarrels with his colleagues in the office, but it contained much information not to be found elsewhere. Several articles on the subjects in which he took most interest were contributed by him to the seventh edition of Ure's 'Dictionary of Arts,' &c.

[Times, 25 Dec. 1880, p. 10; Athenæum, 1 Jan. 1881, p. 24.]

W. P. C.