Muir, Matthew Moncrieff Pattison 1848 - 1931

Scottish; British

(1848-1931), Chemist

Matthew Moncrieff Pattison Muir was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on 1 November 1848. He was the son of a Glasgow merchant and received his elementary education in his native city. Muir began the study of chemistry at the University of Glasgow. In 1870 he entered the University of Tübingen to continue his studies, but the Franco-Prussian War forced his return home in 1871. He then served for two years as demonstrator in chemistry at Anderson College in Glasgow, and in 1873 he accepted a similar position at Owens College in Manchester.

Muir’s laboratory investigations, which were carried out between 1876 and 1888, chiefly related to compounds of bismuth. He and his students published eighteen papers in this field. It is said that for a time his students called him Mr. Bismuth. In 1877 he was appointed to the praelectorship in chemistry at Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge, where he remained for the rest of his scientific career.

He wrote several textbooks for the use of his student, including Principles of Chemistry (1889) and Elements of Thermal Chemistry (1885). He translated Ostwald’s book on solutions (1891) and took part in a major revision of Watts’ Dictionary of Chemistry. In the 1880’s he turned to historical studies, starting with the preparation of a biographical work on famous chemists for a series on heroes of science. The book appeared in 1883 and in his later years Muir worked entirely in this field. His chief historical work, published in 1907, was his History of Chemical Theories and Laws. The book remains a classic in the history of chemistry.

He received an honorary M.A. in 1880, and in 1881 he became a fellow of the College. At the time of his death he was its senior fellow. By his 1873 marriage to Florence Haslam he had two sons and retired from active teaching in 1908. He spent the remainder of his life at his home in Epsom, devoting himself to writing. He died in Epsom, England, on 2 September 1931.