Gladstone, John Hall (DNB12)
GLADSTONE, JOHN HALL (1827–1902), chemist, born at 7 Chatham Place West, Hackney, London, on 7 March 1827, was the eldest son of John Gladstone by his wife Alison Hall. The second son, George (1828–1909), a prominent educationalist, was for many years chairman of the School Board of Hove, Sussex. The father came from Kelso, where the family had been established since 1645, and after a successful career as a wholesale draper and warehouseman retired from business in 1842. John, after being privately educated, entered in 1844 University College, London, and attended the chemistry lectures of Professor Thomas Graham [q. v.], gaining a gold medal for original research, and publishing a paper on guncotton and xyloidine. In 1847 he went to Giessen University, where he was a pupil of Liebig, and after graduating Ph.D. there he returned to London in 1848. From 1850 to 1852 he was lecturer on chemistry at St. Thomas's Hospital, and in 1853 he was elected F.R.S. He sat on the royal commission which inquired into lighthouses, buoys and beacons from 1859 to 1862, and on the committee which the war office appointed in 1864 to investigate questions regarding guncotton. He succeeded Michael Faraday [q. v.] as Fullerian professor of chemistry at the Royal Institution in 1874, but resigned in 1877. Amongst the other important offices he held in scientific societies were president of the Physical Society (1874), of which he was a founder, and of the Chemical Society (1877–9); in 1892 he was made an honorary D.Sc. of Trinity College, Dublin, on the occasion of its tercentenary celebrations, and in 1897 he received the Davy medal from the Royal Society.
Gladstone was one of the founders of the new science of physical chemistry. A long series of papers — Professor Tilden estimates them at 140 by himself alone, and seventy-eight in collaboration — contributed to various learned societies through life contains the record of his researches. In his earlier years his chief discoveries concerned chemistry in relation to optics, and the refraction and the dispersion of liquids. He was one of the earliest students in spectroscopy, and published several papers, one written with Sir David Brewster, on the 'Solar Spectrum.' In 1872, with his assistant Alfred Tribe, he discovered that zinc covered with spongy copper would decompose water, and from that time the copper-zinc couple has become one of the most familiar pieces of chemico-electrical apparatus. The discovery was immediately followed by experiments as to the value of the copper-zinc union as a reducing agent for both organic and inorganic compounds. The results were published in the 'Journal of the Chemical Society' between 1872 and 1875. Papers on a similar subject, 'The Chemistry of the Secondary Batteries of Plants and Faure,' which were communicated to 'Nature' (1882–3), appeared in 1883 in volume form.
As reformer and promoter of education, Gladstone holds high rank. He was a pioneer of technical education and manual instruction, and one of the earliest advocates of the introduction of science into elementary schools. From 1873 to 1894 he sat on the London School Board, being vice-chairman from 1888 to 1891. In 1868 he contested the parliamentary representation of York as a liberal, but was unsuccessful, and though he was frequently asked to stand for other constituencies (cf. Life of Lord Kelvin, p. 701), his membership of the school board remained his only public office. To this he gave time and thought liberally, and as chairman of the school management and the books and apparatus committees he was responsible for many of the changes in the curriculum and improvements in the methods of education, which he described in the memorandum he contributed to the 'Life and Letters of Professor Huxley' (i. 350). He was an ardent advocate of spelling reform, and succeeded in 1876 in getting the school board to pass a resolution in its favour. The Spelling Reform Association was started in 1879 after a meeting in his house.
Gladstone was active in philanthropic and charitable work, and keenly interested in Christian endeavour, organising devotional meetings and bible classes among educated men and women. He was a vice-president of the Christian Evidence Society, and wrote and lectured frequently for it on Christian apologetics. He published 'The Antiquity of Man and the Word of God' (anonymously) (1864); 'Theology and Natural Science' (1867); 'Points of Supposed Collision between the Scriptures and Natural Science' (1880) (in Christian evidence lectures, 2nd ser.); and 'Miracles' (1880) (ib. 4th ser.). He was one of the earliest collaborators with Sir George Williams [q. v. Suppl. II] in the work of the Young Men's Christian Association, with which he was connected from 1850; he was specially active in its international relationships.
Gladstone died at 17 Pembridge Square, Netting Hill, London, on 6 Oct. 1902, and is buried in Kensal Green cemetery. He was twice married: (1) in 1852, to Jane May (d. 1864), only child of Charles Tilt, the publisher, by whom he had one son and six daughters; (2) in 1869, to Margaret, daughter of David King, LL.D. [q. v.]; she died in 1870, leaving a daughter. A cartoon portrait of Gladstone by 'Spy' appeared in 'Vanity Fair' in 1891.
Besides the works mentioned Gladstone was author of:
- A memorial volume on his first wife (privately printed), 1866,
- 'Michael Faraday,' 1872 (often reprinted), a work inspired by intimate personal knowledge and friendship.
- 'Spelling Reform from an Educational Point of View,' 1878 (2nd edit. 1879).
- 'Object Teaching,' 1882.
He contributed to the 'Memoirs' issued by the Egypt Exploration Fund papers on the composition of the metals found in the course of the explorations (cf. the volume on 'Dendereh,' 1900). He also wrote a few hymns, which have been included in collections like 'Hymns for Christian Associations.'
[Proc. Roy. Soc, vol. 75, 1905; Trans. Chemical Soc, April 1905; Nature, 16 Oct. 1902; Phonetic Journal, 2 Jan. 1897; private information.]