Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Yorke, Philip James

YORKE, PHILIP JAMES (1799–1874), chemist, mineralogist, and meteorologist, born on 13 Oct. 1799, was eldest son of Philip Yorke, prebendary of Ely (b. 24 Feb. 1770, d. 27 July 1835), and his wife, Anna Maria, daughter of Charles Cocks, first baron Somers. He was great-grandson on his father's side of the first Earl of Hardwicke. At about the age of nine he went to the school of Dr. Pearson at East Sheen, and thence to Harrow in 1810. He left Harrow at the age of sixteen, obtained a commission in the Scots fusilier guards, and remained in that regiment till about 1852, attaining the rank of lieutenant-colonel. During the Crimean war he was appointed colonel of the Herefordshire militia, a post which he held for three years. Yorke's first scientific paper (dated from 12 Duke Street, Grosvenor Square) contained a very careful investigation of the action of lead on water (Philosophical Magazine, 1834 [3] v. 81). He showed, among other things, that after long contact with metallic lead water dissolves one twelve-thousandth part of its own weight of a hydrated oxide of lead formed by the action of the water and the oxygen dissolved therein. In 1841 he became one of the original members of the Chemical Society, of which he was vice-president in 1852 and president from 30 March 1853 to 30 March 1855. In 1849 Yorke was elected F.R.S. He also took an active part in the Royal Institution, of which he was often a manager. Yorke died on 14 Dec. 1874. He married, on 27 April 1843, Emily, youngest daughter of William Morgan Clifford of Perrystone, Herefordshire; she died on 16 Sept. 1869.

The Royal Society's catalogue contains a list of thirteen papers by Yorke which show him to have been an accomplished chemist and mineralogist. A paper printed in abstract in the ‘Proceedings of the Royal Society,’ 1842 (iv. 386), shows that he made a laborious comparison between the barometrical observations taken at his house near Ross, Herefordshire, and those taken at the Royal Society's rooms. In 1853 Yorke published a translation of Baron F. C. F. von Mueffling's ‘Passages from my Life.’

The Jubilee album presented to the Chemical Society by Mr. Robert Warington contains a portrait and autograph of Yorke.

[Yorke's own papers; Obituary, Chem. Soc. Journ. 1875, p. 1319; Jubilee of the Chemical Society, 1891, pp. 25, 180, 181, 184; Royal Soc. Cat.; Welch's Harrow School Register; Burke's Peerage.]

P. J. H.