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Andrews, Thomaslocked

  • Arthur Harden
  • , revised by Anita McConnell

Andrews, Thomas (1813–1885), chemist, was born on 19 December 1813 at 3 Donegall Square, Belfast, eldest of the six children of Thomas John Andrews, a linen merchant of Belfast, and his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson. He received his early education at the Belfast Academy and the Belfast Academical Institution, where he became proficient in French, and then spent a short time in his father's office, which he left in 1828 for the University of Glasgow, where he studied chemistry under Thomas Thomson (1773–1852).

In the summer of 1830 Andrews travelled in France, reaching Paris in time for the winter lectures given by many of the leading French chemists. He spent a short time in the laboratory of Professor J.-B. A. Dumas. The following years were occupied in medical studies; he passed the four-year undergraduate course at Trinity College, Dublin, then at Belfast, and finally in Edinburgh, where in 1835 he received the diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and graduated MD. He declined the chairs of chemistry in the Richmond and Park Street schools of medicine at Dublin and established himself in practice in Belfast, and was at the same time appointed to teach chemistry in the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. For ten years he was occupied in this way, and gradually became known to the scientific world as the author of valuable papers on subjects connected with voltaic action and heat of combination. In 1842 he married Jane Hardie, daughter of Major Walker, formerly of the 42nd highlanders, and his wife, Penelope Leslie, youngest daughter of Adam Johnston of Glynn, to whom Andrews was distantly related. They had four daughters and two sons.

In 1845 Andrews was appointed vice-president of the Northern College (later Queen's College, Belfast), and resigned both his teaching position and his private practice. In 1849 came the opening of the Queen's colleges, in the organization of which Andrews had been engaged since 1845, and he was then appointed to the professorship of chemistry in Queen's College, Belfast, a post which he held until 1879. Throughout this period, he maintained his own researches and published numerous papers.

Andrews's most important researches were those dealing with heat of combination, ozone, and the continuity of the gaseous and liquid states of matter. The researches on heat of combination, carried out from 1841 to 1869, dealt with a great variety of chemical reactions and exhibited a degree of precision far in advance of that of previous workers in the same field, largely due to his improved experimental methods. The experiments on ozone, which were partly carried out in conjunction with P. G. Tait, finally established it as an allotropic form of oxygen, which can be prepared in a number of different ways. This work moreover laid the basis for future researches which clarified its relationship to oxygen.

By far the most brilliant and far-reaching of Andrews's discoveries, however, was that of the existence of a critical temperature above which a gas cannot be converted into a liquid by pressure, however great. His records of the behaviour of carbonic acid gas under varying temperatures and pressures served as the foundation of later work on the continuity of the gaseous and liquid states of matter. These researches, moreover, pointed out the fundamental condition for the liquefaction of all gases; they were the basis for later liquefaction of other known gases including air and refrigerants.

Andrews was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 7 June 1849, and an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1870. The degree of doctor of laws was conferred upon him by the University of Edinburgh in 1871, by Trinity College, Dublin, in 1873, and by the University of Glasgow in 1877, and that of DSc in 1879 by the Queen's University of Ireland. He was president of the chemistry section of the British Association at Belfast in 1852, and again at Edinburgh in 1871, and was president of the association at Glasgow in 1876. In 1880 he declined the offer of a knighthood. His connection with Queen's College was commemorated by the establishment after his death of an Andrews studentship.

Andrews is described by his biographers as a man of simple, unpretending manner, thoroughly trustworthy and warm-hearted. In his laboratory he had remarkable skill in manipulation and unwearying patience. He took a great interest in social questions of the time, such as temperance, and exerted himself on behalf of the poor during the Irish famine of 1847. In addition to his scientific papers and addresses Andrews published two pamphlets: Studium generale (1867), which contains a strong argument against a proposal to sever the teaching from the examining university in Ireland; and The Church in Ireland (1869), a plea in favour of the proposed disestablishment of the Church of Ireland and the equitable distribution for spiritual purposes of the church property among the whole population of the island. After his resignation of the offices of vice-president and professor of chemistry in Queen's College, he retired to Fort William Park, Belfast, where he died on 26 November 1885. He was buried in the borough cemetery, Belfast.


  • JCS, 49 (1886), 342–4
  • P. G. Tait and A. Crum Brown, eds., The scientific papers of the late Thomas Andrews MD, FRS (1889), ix–lxii
  • CGPLA Ire. (1886)


  • Queen's University, Belfast, corresp. and working papers
  • Sci. Mus., corresp.
  • CUL, corresp. with Lord Kelvin
  • CUL, letters to Sir George Stokes
  • MHS Oxf., corresp. with Sir Benjamin Brodie
  • NL Ire., letters to Lord O'Hagan
  • PRONI, letters to Lord O'Hagan
  • RS, letters to Sir John Herschel


  • oils, Royal Belfast Academical Institution

Wealth at Death

£3190 in England: English probate sealed in Ireland, 6 March 1886, CGPLA Ire.

Journal of the Chemical Society
C. C. Gillispie & F. L. Holmes, eds., , 16 vols. (1970–80); repr. in 8 vols. (1981); 2 vol. suppl. (1990)
Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [Ireland]