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Volume 22, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 0032-1400


Examination of the laboratory notebooks of W. H. Wollaston makes possible a complete reconstruction of his platinum researches, and valuable insights into the financial details of his platinum business, originally in partnership with Smithson Tennant, may be obtained. The leading role played by Wollaston in both the research and marketing aspects of the business is confirmed. Although the use of platinum for laboratory ware and vessels for the concentration of sulphuric acid were important applications, the gunmakers provided the greatest market for malleable platinum over the years 1808 to 1820. The business ground to a halt in 1820 when Wollaston could no longer procure supplies of crude platinum.


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  1. Letter from W. H. Wollaston to H. Hasted, November 16, 1801. Copies of the Wollaston/Hasted letters are in University College Library, London; the originals, once in possession of Wollaston‘s descendants, can no longer be found
  2. (a) A history of platinum, and Wollaston‘s place in it, has been admirably and capably compiled; see Donald McDonald,“A History of Platinum”, Johnson Matthey, London, 1960 (b) A brief assessment of Wollaston‘s platinum researches has also been published by the same author: D. McDonald, “William Hyde Wollaston; the Production of Malleable Platinum”, Platinum Metals Rev., 1966, 10, (3), 101–106 [Google Scholar]
  3. L. F. Gilbert, “W. H. Wollaston MSS at Cambridge”, Notes and Records Roy. Soc. Lond., 1952, 9, 311–332 [Google Scholar]
  4. Ibid., 318
  5. Wollaston MSS, Cambridge University Library, letter enclosed in notebook F
  6. Wollaston MSS, note enclosed in notebook F
  7. Op. cit. (Ref. 2(a)), 136
  8. Wollaston MSS, notebook H, 57. The Tennant referred to is Charles Tennant, a Glasgow acid manufacturer who purchased four platinum boilers from Wollaston
  9. Wollaston MSS, notebook I
  10. Op. cit. (Ref. 3), 319
  11. Wollaston MSS, notebook H, 4

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  • Article Type: Research Article
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