Ramsay, Sir William, 1852–1916, Scottish chemist. He was professor of chemistry at University College, Bristol (1880–87), and at University College, London (1887–1912). In his early experiments he showed that the alkaloids are related to pyridine, which he synthesized (1876) from acetylene and prussic acid. He then turned to inorganic and physical chemistry. Investigating the inert gases of the atmosphere, he discovered helium; with Rayleigh he discovered argon, and with M. W. Travers, krypton, neon, and xenon. He also carried on research on radium emanation. In 1902 he was knighted. For his work on gases he received the 1904 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. His writings include System of Inorganic Chemistry (1891) and Essays Biographical and Chemical (1908).
See biography by M. W. Travers (1956).
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