Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ure, Andrew
URE, ANDREW (1778–1857), chemist and scientific writer, was born at Glasgow on 18 May 1778. He studied at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities, and graduated M.D. at Glasgow in 1801. In 1804, on the resignation of Dr. George Birkbeck [q. v.], he was appointed professor of chemistry and natural philosophy in the Andersonian University, later Anderson's College, Glasgow. In 1809 he took an active part in the foundation of the Glasgow Observatory, and in connection with this work visited London, where he made the acquaintance of Nevil Maskelyne [q. v.], Sir Humphry Davy [q. v.], William Hyde Wollaston [q. v.], and others. He resided at the observatory for some years. About this time he established a course of popular scientific lectures for working men in Glasgow, probably the first of its kind. An official report of M. (later Baron) Charles Dupin on Ure's lectures led to the establishment of similar courses at the École des Arts et Métiers in Paris. In 1818 he published an important series of determinations on the specific gravity of solutions of sulphuric acid of varying strengths. On 10 Dec. 1818 he read a paper before the Glasgow Literary Society on electrical experiments he had made on the murderer Clydsdale after his execution. He suggested, following up the work of Alexander Philip Wilson Philip [q. v.], that by stimulating the phrenic nerve, the vagus, or the great sympathetic, life might be restored in cases of suffocation from noxious vapours, drowning, &c. His experiments created a considerable sensation. In 1821 he published a ‘Dictionary of Chemistry,’ founded on that of William Nicholson (1753–1815) [q. v.] Ure, in his article on ‘Equivalents,’ shows excellent discernment in dealing with the important chemical theories of the time; he follows the views of Wollaston and Davy rather than those of Dalton as put forward by their author, and adopts Berzelius's notation for the elements, then only just proposed, but adopted universally later. This ‘Dictionary of Chemistry’ attained a fourth edition in 1835, and formed the basis of that of Henry Watts [q. v.] in 1863. It was translated into French by J. Riffault in 1822–4, and into German by K. Karmarsch and F. Heeren in 1843. In 1822 Ure was elected F.R.S. In 1829 he published a ‘New System of Geology,’ in which he points out the importance of chemistry and physics to the geologist, but which is chiefly devoted to a criticism of the Huttonian and Wernerian theories, and to the advocacy of the orthodox system of chronology. In 1830 Ure resigned his professorship and went to London, where he practised as an analytical and commercial chemist until his death. In 1834 he became unofficially attached to the board of customs as analytical chemist, receiving two guineas for each analysis performed. He was also requested by the board to investigate methods of estimating the quantity of sugar in sugar-cane juice, and received 800l. for two years' work on this subject.
In 1835 he published his ‘Philosophy of Manufactures,’ in which he deals with the condition of factory workers, and in 1836 ‘The Cotton Manufactures of Great Britain …;’ subsequent editions of both these books, edited by Peter Lund Simmonds, appeared in 1861. In 1839 he published a ‘Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, and Mines,’ of which a fourth edition appeared in 1853. The book was re-edited by Robert Hunt (1807–1887) [q. v.] in 1860 and 1867, and by Hunt and F. W. Rudler in 1875–8. It was translated into German by K. Karmarsch and F. Heeren in 1843–4 (Prague, 3 vols. 8vo).
In 1843 he published as a pamphlet ‘The Revenue in Jeopardy from Spurious Chemistry,’ in which he attacks William Thomas Brande [q. v.] and Thomas Graham [q. v.] with regard to certain analyses.
Besides the books mentioned, he published ‘A New Systematic Table of the Materia Medica’ (Glasgow, 1813) (Watt, Bibl. Brit.), and a pamphlet on ‘The General Malaria of London’ in 1850. He was an original member of the Royal Astronomical Society and an honorary member of the Geological Society. The Royal Society's ‘Catalogue’ gives a list of fifty-three papers by Ure dealing with physics, pure and applied chemistry. He will be remembered chiefly by his inauguration of popular scientific lectures, and by his popular scientific works, which, in spite of a somewhat inflated and diffuse style, are clear and interesting.
Ure died on 2 Jan. 1857, and was buried in Highgate cemetery. There is a portrait of him by Sir Daniel Macnee [q. v.] in the South Kensington Museum. Ure's eldest son, Alexander Ure, F.R.C.S., was surgeon at St. Mary's Hospital, London, and died in June 1866 (Cates, Dict. of Biogr.; see also Roy. Soc. Cat.)[Obituaries in Gent. Mag. new ser. 1857, i. 242; Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, 1857, vol. xiii.; Proceedings of Glasgow Philosophical Society, iv. 103; Dr. Ure, a slight sketch reprinted from the Times and … other periodicals (privately printed, 1875); Ure's own books and scientific papers; Addison's Roll of Glasgow Graduates; Calendar of Anderson's College, 1878–9; Roy. Soc. Cat.; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Cat. of the National Gallery … at South Kensington, 1884.]