Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Shenstone, William Ashwell

SHENSTONE, WILLIAM ASHWELL (1850–1908), writer on chemistry, born at Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, on 1 Dec. 1850, was eldest son of James Burt Byron Shenstone, pharmaceutical chemist of Colchester, by his wife Jemima, daughter of James Chapman, of Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk. Through his grandfather, Joseph Shenstone (b. at Halesowen), he traced collateral connection with Wilham Shenstone the poet.

Educated at Colchester grammar school, Shenstone afterwards entered his father's business. He qualified as a chemist in the school of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, securing there a Bell scholarship (1871), and was awarded in 1872 the Pereira medal. For two years he was demonstrator of practical chemistry in that school under Professor J. Attfield, leaving to become assistant to Dr. (afterwards Sir) W. A. Tilden, chief science master at Clifton College. In 1875 he was appointed science master at Taunton School, and in 1877 science master at Exeter grammar school, where he built a laboratory (see Nature, 26 July 1878). He returned to Clifton in 1880, succeeding Dr. Tilden as science master and holding this post until his death.

While assistant to Tilden at Clifton, Shenstone collaborated with him in an investigation on the terpenes, the results appearing in the paper 'Isomeric Nitrosoterpenes' (Trans. Chem. Soc. 1877). Jointly with Tilden he published also the memoir 'On the Solubility of Salts in Water at High Temperatures' (Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. 1884), and 'On the Solubility of Calcium Sulphate in Water in the Presence of Chlorides' (Proc. Roy. Soc. 1885). Other important papers, published in the Transactions of the Chemical Society, comprised 'Ozone from Pure Oxygen : its Production and its Action on Mercury' (1887, jointly with J. T. Cundall) ; 'Studies on the Formation of Ozone from Oxygen' (1893, jointly with M. Priest); 'Observations on the Properties of some Highly Purified Substances' (1897); and 'Observations on the Influence of the Silent Discharge on Atmospheric Air' (1898, jointly with W. T. Evans).

Shenstone was admitted a fellow of the Chemical Society in 1876, and was member of the council 1893-5; he was a fellow of the Institute of Chemistry from 1878, serving on the council 1905-6. He was an original member of the Society of Chemical Industry, and was elected F.R.S. on 9 June 1898.

He died on 3 Feb. 1908, at Polurrian, Mulhon, Cornwall, and was buried there. He married in 1883 Jane Mildred, eldest daughter of Reginald N. Durrant, rector of Wootton, near Canterbury, and had issue one son and one daughter. Devoted to his profession, Shenstone was highly successful as a teacher in physical science, and generally influenced the introduction of improved methods of science teaching in schools. Shenstone's chief independent publications were:

  1. 'A Practical Introduction to Chemistry,' 1886; 3rd edit. 1892.
  2. 'The Methods of Glass Blowing,' 1886; 3rd edit. 1894; a German translation was published at Leipzig, 1887.
  3. 'Justus von Liebig: his Life and Work,' 1895.
  4. 'The Elements of Inorganic Chemistry,' 1900.
  5. 'The New Physics and Chemistry,' 1906, a reprint of a series of essays contributed to the 'Cornhill Magazine.'

On 8 March 1901 he gave a lecture at the Royal Institution on 'Vitrified Quartz,' detailing important practical applications of the material for laboratory apparatus. For Henry Watts' s 'Dictionary of Chemistry' he wrote the article 'Ozone.'

[Proc. Roy. Soc. vol. lxxxii. A; Journ. Soc. Chem. Industry, vol. xxvii.; Proc. Chem. Soc. vol. xxiv. No. 336; Trans. Chem. Soc, vol. xcv.; Proc. Inst. Chemistry, 1908, Pt. 2; Pharmaceut. Journ., 8 Feb. 1908; Poggendorff's Handwörterbuch, 1904; Roy. Soc. Catal. Sci. Papers; Nature, 13 Feb. 1908; The Times, 7 Feb. 1908.]

T. E. J.