Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Russell, William James

RUSSELL, WILLIAM JAMES (1830–1909), chemist, born at Gloucester on 20 May 1830, was son of Thomas Rougher Russell (1775–1851), a banker at Gloucester, and was grandson of Priestley's friend, William Russell (1740–1818) [q. v.]. His mother was Mary (1790–1877), fourth daughter of Col. James Skey. Educated at private schools at Bristol and Birmingham, he entered University College, London, in 1847, studying chemistry under Thomas Graham [q v.] and Alexander Williamson [q. v. Suppl. II]. For two years a demonstrator at Owens College, Manchester, under Frankland (1851–3), he proceeded thence to Heidelberg University, becoming a pupil of Bunsen and graduating Ph.D. in 1855. In 1857 he became assistant to Prof. Williamson and carried out researches on the analysis of gases, the results of which were communicated to the Chemical Society. For Henry Watts's 'Dictionary of Chemistry' he wrote the article on 'Gas Analysis' (1868). Other investigations comprised the determination of the atomic weights of cobalt and nickel; memoirs on absorption spectra; and papers on the action of wood and other substances on a photographic plate in darkness (see Philosophical Transactions, Royal Society, vol. 197, B. 1905). From 1868 to 1870 he was lecturer in chemistry at the medical school, St. Mary's Hospital, London, and subsequently (1870–97) held a similar post at St. Bartholomew's. He was (1860–70) professor of natural philosophy at Bedford College, London, and in later life was chairman of the council.

Following a long period of honorary service at the Chemical Society, Russell became president, 1889–91. Elected F.R.S. on 6 June 1872, he was Bakerian lecturer in 1898. One of the founders of the Institute of Chemistry, he was president 1894–7. He died at Ringwood on 12 Nov. 1909. Russell married in 1862 Fanny, daughter of Abraham Follett Osler [q. v. Suppl. II], by whom he had issue one son and one daughter; the latter married Dr. Alexander Scott, F.R.S.

[Roy. Soc. Proc. lxxxiv. A; Chem. Soc. Jubilee vol. 1891, and Trans, presidential addresses; St. Bart.'s Hosp. Reports (with portrait), vol. xlv.; Nature, 25 Nov. 1909 (by Prof. G. Carey Foster); The Times, 13 Nov. 1909; S. H. Jeyes's Russells of Birmingham, 1911, p. 268 (with photograph).]

T. E. J.