Young, James, 1811-1883

Alternative names
Birth 1811-07-13
Death 1883-05-13

Biographical notes:

James Young was born in Glasgow in 1811. He attended Professor Thomas Graham's chemistry lectures at Anderson's University in 1830, became Graham's Assistant in 1832 and followed him to University College, London in 1837. He became Manager of the chemical works of James Muspratt, St Helens, Lancashire in 1838, and moved to Tennants, Clow & Co of Ardwick, Manchester in 1844. In 1848 Young established an oil refinery at Alfreton, Derbyshire with James Oakes, and in 1850 he was granted a 14 year patent for a process to extract oil from cannel coal. He subsequently entered into partnership with Edward Binney and Edward Meldrum for the manufacture of oils from Boghead cannel coal at Bathgate, West Lothian, and began the sale of paraffin. Young embarked on considerable litigation against other companies who had attempted to infringe his patent. In 1865 Young bought out his business partners and a year later established Young's Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company, with new works at Addiewell, Bathgate. He also patented other industrial processes. James Young was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1861 and of the Royal Society in 1873. From 1868-1877 he was President of Anderson's University, and a great benefactor to the University. He founded the Young Chair of Technical Chemistry in 1869. He was a lifelong friend of David Livingstone, who had been a medical student at Anderson's University in the 1830s, and funded Livingstone's African expeditions. He was a keen yachtsman and made long voyages with family and friends on his yacht, 'Nyanza'. Young continued his scientific experiments in retirement, notably on the velocity of light, with Professor George Forbes of Anderson's University. In 1879 Young was awarded the degree of LL D of St Andrews University. The Young Papers were gifted to the Royal College of Science and Technology in 1959 by Miss A Thom, grand-daughter of James Young.

From the guide to the James 'Paraffin' Young Papers, 1830-1958, (Strathclyde University Archives)


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Ark ID:


  • Petroleum industry


not available for this record


  • Bathgate (Scotland) (as recorded)