Watson , Sir William
(1715–1787) British physicist, physician, and botanist
Watson, the son of a London tradesman, was apprenticed to an apothecary from 1731 to 1738. After working for many years at that trade, Watson was made a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians. This was later followed in 1762 with an appointment as physician to the Foundling Hospital.
Watson had a great interest in natural history and was instrumental in introducing the Linnaean system of botanical classification into Britain. He is, however, mainly remembered for his account of the nature of electricity. This was based on a series of experiments with the Leyden jar, discovered by Pieter van Musschenbroek in 1746. Watson not only improved the device by coating the inside of it with metal foil but also realized that the pattern of discharge of the jar suggested that electricity was simply a single fluid or, as he termed it, an ‘electrical ether’. Normally bodies have an equal density of this fluid so that when two such bodies meet there will be no electrical activity. If, however, their densities are unequal the fluid will flow and there will be an electric discharge. That is, electricity can only be transferred from one body to another; it cannot be created or destroyed. Such a theory was also developed with greater depth at about the same time by Benjamin Franklin and was to emerge as the orthodox position by the end of the century.
Watson also made an early and unsuccessful attempt in 1747 to measure the velocity of electricity over a four-mile (6.4-km) circuit. Although it appeared to complete its journey in no time at all Watson sensibly concluded that it probably traveled too fast to be measured.

Scientists. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Watson, Sir William — ▪ English author in full  Sir John William Watson   born Aug. 2, 1858, Burley in Wharfedale, Yorkshire, Eng. died Aug. 11, 1935, Ditchling, Sussex  English author of lyrical and political verse, best known for his occasional poems.       His… …   Universalium

  • Sir William Cheyne, 1st Baronet — Sir William Watson, 1st Baronet Cheyne KCMG CB FRCS (December 14, 1852, off Hobart, Tasmania ndash; April 19, 1932, Fetlar, Shetland Islands, Scotland) was a British surgeon and bacteriologist, who pioneered the use of antiseptical surgical… …   Wikipedia

  • Sir William Rutherford, 1st Baronet — Sir William Watson Rutherford, 1st Baronet (1853 ndash; 3 December 1927) was a Conservative party politician in the United Kingdom.He was Member of Parliament (MP) for Liverpool West Derby from 1903 to 1918, and for Liverpool Edge Hill from 1918… …   Wikipedia

  • Watson, Sir (John) William — (1858 1935)    Born at Burley in Wharfedale, Yorkshire, the son of a grocer, he was educated at Southport, Lancashire. His first volume of verse, the Prince s Quest, published at his father s expense, appeared in 1880; this was followed by twenty …   British and Irish poets

  • Sir William Congreve, 1st Baronet — Lieutenant General Sir William Congreve, 1st Baronet (d. 1814)During the second half of the 18th century, the British government became increasingly concerned over the volume and quality of gunpowder produced by the private manufacturers. It… …   Wikipedia

  • Sir William James, 1st Baronet — Commodore Sir William James, 1st Baronet, FRS (c.1721 ndash; 16 December 1783) was a British naval commander known for his successful campaigns against Indian native navies.A poor Welsh miller s son from Pembrokeshire, James ran away to sea in… …   Wikipedia

  • Ramsay, Sir William — ▪ British chemist Introduction born Oct. 2, 1852, Glasgow, Scot. died July 23, 1916, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, Eng.  British physical chemist who discovered four gases ( neon, argon, krypton, xenon) and showed that they (with helium and… …   Universalium

  • Herschel, Sir William — ▪ British German astronomer Introduction original name  Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel   born Nov. 15, 1738, Hannover, Hanover died Aug. 25, 1822, Slough, Buckinghamshire, Eng.  German born British astronomer, the founder of sidereal astronomy for… …   Universalium

  • MANNING, Sir William Montagu (1811-1895) — politician and judge second son of John Edye Manning, of Clifton, England, was born at Alphington, near Exeter, in June 1811. He was educated at private schools and University College, London, and was entered at Lincoln s Inn in November 1827. He …   Dictionary of Australian Biography

  • Cheyne, Sir William Watson — born Dec. 14, 1852, at sea off Hobart, Tas. died April 19, 1932, Fetlar, Shetland Islands, Scot. English surgeon and bacteriologist. His early work on preventive medicine and bacterial causes of disease was strongly influenced by that of Robert… …   Universalium

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”