Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Wanklyn, James Alfred

WANKLYN, JAMES ALFRED (1834–1906), analytical chemist, born at Ashton-under-Lyne on 18 Feb. 1834, was son of Thomas Wanklyn of Ashton-under-Lyne. His mother's maiden name was Ann Dakeyne.

After studying at Owens College, Manchester, he qualified for the medical profession, becoming M.R.C.S. in 1856, but did not practise. He devoted himself in the first instance to chemical research, and afterwards to the science of public health.

In 1856 he acted as assistant to Prof. (Sir) Edward Frankland. Next, he studied chemistry at Heidelberg under Bunsen. In 1859 he was appointed demonstrator of chemistry in the University of Edinburgh, when Lyon (afterwards Lord) Playfair was professor. Migrating to London, Wanklyn was from 1863 to 1870 professor of chemistry at the London Institution, and from 1877 to 1880 lecturer in chemistry and physics at St. George's Hospital. At various periods he was public analyst for the boroughs of Buckingham, Peterborough, Shrewsbury, and High Wycombe. The latter part of his life was passed at New Malden, Surrey, where he had a laboratory and practised as an analytical and consulting chemist. He died unmarried at 6 Derby villas, New Malden, on 19 July 1906 from heart failure, and was buried at New Malden cemetery.

Wanklyn was elected a corresponding member of the Royal Bavarian Academy of Sciences in 1869. Beyond honorary membership of the Edinburgh Chemical Society he was not allied with any British scientific society.

Wanklyn's first scientific paper, ‘On Cadmium-ethyl,’ was published by the Chemical Society (Journal, vol. ix. 1857). Next year he gave an account in Liebig's ‘Annalen’ of his preparation of propionic acid, and read a paper on the subject before the Chemical Society, ‘On a New Method of preparing Propionic Acid: viz. by the Action of Carbonic Acid upon an Ethyl-compound’ (Journal, vol. xi. 1859). The research afforded the first example of the artificial production of an organic substance directly from carbonic acid (see also Journal, vol. iv. (ser. 2), 1866). He contributed to the ‘Proceedings of the Royal Society’ the subjoined memoirs: ‘On Some New Ethyl-compounds containing the Alkali Metals’ (vol. ix. 1857–9); ‘On the Action of Carbonic Oxide on Sodium-alcohol’ (ib.); ‘On the Synthesis of Acetic Acid’ (vol. x.), and ‘On the Distillation of Mixtures: a Contribution to the Theory of Fractional Distillation’ (vol. xii.).

Several important papers were published in collaboration with others; with Lyon Playfair, ‘On a Mode of taking the Density of Vapour of Volatile Liquids at Temperatures below the Boiling Point’ (Trans. Roy. Soc. Edin. 1861); with Peter Guthrie Tait, ‘Note on the Electricity developed during Evaporation and during Effervescence from Chemical Action’ (Proc. Roy. Soc. Edin. 1862); with Emil Erlenmeyer ‘Sur la Constitution de la Mannite’ (Répertoire de Chimie Pure, 1862); with Arthur Gamgee ‘On the Action of Permanganate of Potash on Urea, Ammonia, and Acetamide in strongly Alkaline Solutions’ (Journ. Chem. Soc. 1868); with J. S. W. Thudichum, ‘Researches on the Constitution and Reactions of Tyrosine’ (ib. 1869).

In 1871 Wanklyn gave much attention to milk-analysis, making for the ‘Milk Journal’ many hundreds of analyses of milk purchased in different parts of London, and investigating for the government the milk supplied to the metropolitan workhouses. But the Wanklyn method of estimation of the total solids of milk after evaporation of water was ultimately entirely superseded (see Chemical News, January 1886 and H. D. Richmond's Dairy Chemistry, 1899).

From 1865 to 1895 Wanklyn published many papers on the chemistry of public health in the ‘Reports of the British Association,’ the ‘Chemical News,’ and other scientific periodicals. His ammonia process of water analysis was first announced to a royal commission on 20 June 1867, and a paper on the subject was read the same day before the Chemical Society (Journal, 1867). With W. J. Cooper he made, for five years, for the local government board, monthly analyses by this process of the London water supply. Much controversy was aroused by his work, but Wanklyn was insistent on the value of the process (see his Water-Analysis).

Wanklyn's independent publications were:

  1. ‘Milk Analysis: a Practical Treatise on the Examination of Milk and its Derivatives, Cream, Butter, and Cheese,’ 1873; 2nd edit. 1886.
  2. ‘Tea, Coffee and Cocoa: a Practical Treatise on the Analysis of Tea, Coffee, Cocoa, Chocolate, Maté (Paraguay tea), &c.,’ 1874.
  3. ‘The Gas Engineer's Chemical Manual,’ 1886.
  4. ‘Arsenic,’ 1901.

He contributed several important articles to Watts's ‘Dictionary of Chemistry’ (see vol. iv. suppl. i. 1872). He collaborated with E. T. Chapman in ‘Water-Analysis: a Practical Treatise on the Examination of Potable Water’ (1868; 3rd edit. 1874, after Chapman's death; 10th edit. 1896—of this French and German translations appeared; 11th edit. 1907, with memoir and portrait of Wanklyn). He was joint author with W. J. Cooper of ‘Bread Analysis: a Practical Treatise on the Examination of Flour and Bread’ (1881; new edit. 1886); ‘Air Analysis, with an Appendix on Illuminating Gas’ (1890); and ‘Sewage Analysis’ (1899; 2nd edit. 1905). With W. H. Corfield and W. H. Michael, he collaborated in ‘A Manual of Public Health’ (1874).

[Private information; Journ. of Gas Lighting, 24 July 1906; Nature, 26 July 1906; Brit. Med. Journ. 4 Aug. 1906; Roy. Soc. Catal. Sci. Papers; Poggendorff's Handwörterbuch, Bd. iii. (1898); Men of the Time, 1899; Ency. Brit. 11th edit. i. 136.]

T. E. J.