Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gregor, William

GREGOR, WILLIAM (1761–1817), chemist and mineralogist, younger son of Francis Gregor, a captain in General Wolfe's regiment, by Mary, sister of Sir Joseph Copley, bart., was born at Trewarthenick in the parish of Cornelly, Cornwall, 25 Dec. 1761, and educated at Bristol grammar school under the Rev. Charles Lee. In 1778 he was placed under the care of a tutor at Walthamstow, and in 1780 was admitted at St. John's College, Cambridge. He graduated B.A. in 1784, and having gained a prize given for Latin prose by the representatives of the university in parliament, he was elected a Platt fellow of his college. Proceeding M.A. in 1787 he vacated his fellowship, and was collated to the rectory of Diptford, near Totnes, which had been purchased for him by his father. In 1790 he married Charlotte Anne, only daughter of David Gwatkin, by Anne, daughter of Robert Lovell, by whom he had issue one child, a daughter. Dr. John Ross, bishop of Exeter, to whom his wife was related, presented him in 1793 to the rectory of Bratton Clovelly, Devonshire, which in the same year he exchanged for the rectory of Creed in Cornwall, where he continued for the rest of his life. He was distinguished as a painter of landscapes, as an etcher, and as a musician. While attending Mr. Waltier's lectures at Bristol he acquired a taste for chemical pursuits, but he gave his chief attention to analytical mineralogy. In 1791 a peculiar black sand, found in the Menacchan or Manaccan Valley, Cornwall, was sent to him for analysis, which he ascertained to be a compound of iron, with traces of manganese and of an unknown substance, which by a series of experiments he proved to possess a metallic base, although he was unable to reduce it to its simple form. In an article in Crell's ‘Annals’ he gave the name of Menacchanite to the sand, and that of Menacchine to the metallic substance which he had proved it to contain. No further notice was taken of this matter for six years. In 1795 Klaproth published the analysis of red schorl, showing that it was composed of the oxide of a peculiar metal to which he gave the name of Titanium. Two years after the same chemist analysed some Menacchanite, and was surprised to find that it contained his new metal, when he abandoned his claim to the discovery of Titanium, and acknowledged that the merit belonged solely to Gregor. This substance was afterwards found in the United States of America and in other places, and is sometimes called Gregorite. Gregor next made experiments on zeolite and wavellite, in both of which he found fluoric acid, while in uran glimmer he discovered oxide of lead, lime and silica, and in the topaz he was enabled to detect lime and potash, which had escaped the observation of Klaproth. He published sermons in 1798, 1805, 1809, three pamphlets, and in 1802 ‘A Letter on the Statute 21 Hen. VIII, c. 13, and on the Grievances to which the Clergy are exposed,’ besides papers in scientific journals. He died of consumption at the rectory, Creed, 11 July 1817. His wife died at Exeter, 11 Sept. 1819.

[Paris's Memoir of the Rev. W. Gregor, 1818; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1850, i. 504 ; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. p. 188 ; Boase's Collect. Cornub. pp. 292, 307.]

G. C. B.