Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Young, Thomas
YOUNG, Thomas (1773-1829), one of the most remarkable figures alike in literature and science in the beginning of the 19th century in Great Britain. He belonged to a Quaker family of Milverton, Somerset, and was the youngest of ten children, having been born on 13th June 1773. His precocity, especially in the acquirement of languages, was remarkable, being little inferior to that of Sir W. Rowan Hamilton. But his thirst for knowledge was unlimited in its range. He was not content with languages, mathematics, and physical science: natural science, medicine, and even ancient philosophy were eagerly studied by him; and he was passionately devoted to athletic exercises. His medical studies were pursued successively in London, Edinburgh, Gottingen, and finally at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he took his doctor's degree. The death of a maternal uncle put him in a position of comfortable independence, and he did not heartily enter upon practice. He was secured in 1802 by the Royal Institution as a colleague of Davy and professor of natural philosophy. Here his special talents found ample occupation, and the chief result was the publication in 1807 of his celebrated Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy, a work which is even now regarded as a valuable authority. Some years before he had made his remarkable discovery of the interference of light, and begun that wonderful series of researches which, as completed by Fresnel, secured the triumph of the undulatory theory. He was foreign secretary of the Royal Society for more than a quarter of a century; and it is curious to note that his reputation stood higher in foreign than in home scientific circles. He was one of the eight foreign associates of the Institute of France. He was one of the Commission ers of Weights and Measures, and secretary to the Board of Longitude, which in those days conducted the Nautical Almanac. A few years before his death he became inter ested in life assurance, with great benefit to the company whose scientific business he conducted. His death, on 10th May 1829, was probably hastened by the extraordinary amount and variety of the labours he undertook, and the self-sacrificing zeal with which he devoted himself to them.
His Life, by Dr Peacock, dean of Ely and a well-known mathematician, was published in 1855, along with a collection of his Miscellaneous Works and Scientific Memoirs. Young was a somewhat copious contributor to the 6th edition of this Encyclopedia, and some of the best of his smaller papers appeared in it for the first time. For a resume of his contributions to the subject of haemadynamics, see Vascular System, p. 97 supra. Another of the multitudinous problems that claimed his attention was the decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, in which he had made some progress as early as 1814; see his Account of some Recent Discoveries in Hieroglyphical Literature (London, 1823).