Muspratt, James

SUBJECT AREA: Chemical technology
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b. 12 August 1793 Dublin, Ireland
d. 4 May 1886 Seaforth Hall, near Liverpool, England
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British industrial chemist.
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Educated in Dublin, Muspratt was apprenticed at the age of 14 to a wholesale chemist and druggist, with whom he remained for three or four years. Muspratt then went in search of the Napoleonic War and found it first in Spain and finally as Second Officer on a naval vessel. Finding the life unpleasantly harsh, he left his ship off Swansea and returned to Dublin around 1814. Soon afterwards, he received an inheritance, much reduced and delayed by litigation in Chancery. He began manufacturing chemicals in a small way and from 1818 set up as a manufacturer of prussiate of potash. In 1823, Muspratt took advantage of the removal of the salt tax to establish the first plant in England for the largescale manufacture of soda by the Leblanc process. His first soda works was on the outskirts of Liverpool, but when this proved inadequate, he established a larger factory at St Helens, Lancashire, where the raw materials lay close at hand. This district has remained an important centre of the British chemical industry ever since. Although the plant was successful commercially, there were environmental problems. The equipment for condensing the hydrochloric acid gas produced were inadequate and this caused extensive damage to local vegetation, so that Muspratt had to contend with legal action lasting from 1832 to 1850. Eventually Muspratt moved his alkali manufacture to Widnes, which also became a great centre for the chemical industry.
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Further Reading
Obituary, 1886, Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry 5:314. J.F.Allen, 1890, Memoir of James Muspratt, London.
LRD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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