1852   Born 2nd October at 2, Queen's Crescent, Glasgow, the only child of William Ramsay and Catherine Robertson.

1863   Starts at the Glasgow Academy.

1866   November, enters the University of Glasgow to study the usual Arts syllabus.

1869   Completes the junior course, and enters the laboratory of Robert Tatlock, the city analyst ("Gas Examiner anbd Sewage Chemist"), while also attending science lectures at the university.

1870   Goes to Germany, and is accepted as a student at Robert Bunsen's laboratory at Heidelberg in October, but returns home for winter.

1871   Easter, starts studying under the distinguished organic chemist Rudolf Fittig at the University of Tubingen.

1872   August, awarded PhD. Returns to Glasgow, becoming an assistant in Anderson's College, Glasgow, in October.

1874   Appointed Tutorial Assistant at the University of Glasgow. Publishes first independent paper, "On Hydrogen Persulphide."

1877   Synthesizes pyridine (widely used as a solvent and in making drugs, pesticides, dyes and so on).

1880   Appointed Professor of Chemistry, University College, Bristol.

1881   Marries Margaret Johnstone Marshall in August. Appointed principal of the college at the end of September.

1883   Daughter, Catherine (Elska), born.

1886   Son, William George, born.

1887   Appointed Professor of Chemistry, University College, London.

1891   Publishes A System of Inorganic Chemistry and Elementary Systematic Chemistry for the Use of Schools and Colleges.

1894   Isolates and studies argon, in association with Lord Rayleigh.

1895   Discovers terrestrial helium. Awarded the Davy Medal by the Royal Society, and the Hodgkins Prize by the Smithsonian Institute.

1897   Becomes President of the Chemistry Section of the British Association, which meets in Toronto. Awarded the Longstaff Medal by the Chemical Society.

1898   Working with Morris Travers, discovers neon, krypton and xenon. Becomes member of the royal commission on sewage disposal (until 1915), just one of his public commitments.

1900-1901   Long Visit to India with wife, at the invitation of J. N. Tata.

1902   Given a knighthood.

1903   Recognizes helium as product of the disintegration of radium emanation. Appointed President of the Society of Chemical Industry.

1904   Awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Appointed President of the Society of Chemical Industry.

1905   Discovers radiothorium, though credits this mainly to his collaborator, Dr Otto Hahn.

1907   Becomes President of the Chemical Society (until 1909).

1908   Publishes Essays Biographical and Chemical (selected magazine articles for a more general audience).

1909   Becomes President of the International Congress of Applied Chemistry.

1910   Determines the density of niton (radium emanation).

1911   Becomes President of the British Association.

1912   Retires from Professorship at University College.

1916   Dies 23rd July.


This chronology is adapted from Tilden's (np), with additions from his and Travers's accounts of Ramsay's life:

Tilden, Sir William A. Sir William Ramsay: Memorials of His Life and Work. London: Macmillan, 1918.

Travers, Morris W. The Life of Sir William Ramsay, KCB, FRS. London: Edward Arnold, 1956.

Last modified 16 April 2007