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Inventory no. 22885 - Former Display Label


Uncoloured engraving by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827). The lecturer is Friedrich Accum, who was the Institution's chemical lecturer from 1803 until about 1810. The Surrey Institution moved sometime after 1809 from Great Surrey Street to Blackfriars and eventually closed through lack of support. Accum was a pioneer of chemical analysis and gas-lighting. In the distillation case in this gallery is exhibited a chest containing fourteen bottles of samples obtained by the fractional distillation of coal (336). His polemics against the adulteration of food made him many enemies. He returned to his native Germany and was appointed a professor at the Technical Institute in Berlin. He died in 1838 at the age of sixty-nine.
Several members of the audience have been tentatively identified. The bulky man to the left, who is watching the experiments with an approving smile, might be Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834), the publisher, and friend of Accum. The man wearing a wig to his right resembles Sir John Hippersley (1748-1825), manager of the Royal Institution. The lean-faced, bald-headed man sitting with his back against the balustrade at the lecturer's right could be Count Rumford (1753-1814). At the time of this session he had left for Paris, but Rowlandson may simply have drawn an imaginary gathering of people associated with Accum. The young man leaning forward between the pillars at the lecturer's left is possibly Humphry Davy. Hippersley and Rumford are also present in a caricature by James Gillray (1757-1815) entitled 'Scientific Researches' (1802), depicting a lecture on gases given at the Royal Institution by Humphry Davy.

See R. Burgess, 'Humphry Davy or Friedrich Accum: A Question of Identification', Medical History, vol. 16 (1972).

Presented by A. F. Walden of New College

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