Working at school on black Friday (13 April 2012) might not be a good idea, so I paid a visit to the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to try to find Prof Watson Smith, UCL Professor in Chemical Technology who recommended “Lights in Darkest England” – matches containing no phossy-jaw-causing white or yellow phosphorus (see my previous blog entry “Another link with UCL in history”).
Prof Smith was born in Stroud, UK in 1845. He had his Chemistry education at Manchester, Heidelberg and Zurich. When he finished his study, he returned to England and worked in the industry for some years before he joined the academia in Owens College, Manchester, where he had his first training. During his lectureship, he pioneered the first Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry in 1882 and remained the editor after he became professor at UCL. He had served the Journal for nearly 40 years until his passing and his contribution was recorded in the Society’s Special Jubilee issue.
I have always admired past researchers who possessed the vision and resourcefulness to study abroad, which was one reason why I seized the opportunity to come to London for my postgraduate training. Even now, it has not been easy for me to manage funding, accommodation and all the rest of it, but if people in the past could make it, so can we!
The RSC’s library is situated in the beautiful Burlington House in Piccadilly, London, just opposite Fortnum & Mason the department store. I finished working just as the bells of the famous clock chimed, and for the first time I saw Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason stepping forward and bowing to each other! What a lovely day!
- London, Society for Chemical Industry. 1931. Journal: Special Jubilee Number, July 1931. The Society.