Notable People

View a list of Notable People

Sir William Ramsay

Born 2 October 1852.
Died 23 July 1916.

A Nobel prizewinning chemist who discovered the inert gaseous elements in air and determined their place in the periodic system.

Connection to the University of Glasgow: Alumnus

Discover more chemists on the University of Glasgow Story website


The following achievement is associated with Sir William Ramsay:

Discovery of the inert gaseous elements in air, and determination of their place in the periodic system
William Ramsay published several notable papers on the oxides of nitrogen in the 1880s and followed those up with the discovery of argon, helium, neon, krypton, and xenon in the 1890s.


The following honours are associated with this person:


The Ramsay Chair in Chemistry is named for Sir William Ramsay (1852-1916), who studied and taught at the University. He won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1904 "in recognition of his services in the discovery of the inert gaseous elements in air, and his determination of their place in the periodic system".

Born in Glasgow, Ramsay studied at the University, 1866 to 1870, working from 1869 at the city analyst's laboratory to gain practical experience in Chemistry. He studied in Germany from 1870 to 1872, receiving a PhD from the University of Tübingen. In 1874 he was appointed tutorial assistant in the University's Chemistry Department, where he carried out important research in Organic Chemistry. He was appointed Professor of Chemistry at University College, Bristol, in 1880.

Ramsay's greatest achievements were in inorganic chemistry. His work with the physicist Lord Raleigh resulted in the discovery of argon in 1894 and he and his student assistant proceded to find helium, neon, krypton, and xenon, confirming a new group of elements in the periodic table. Ramsay received the Nobel Prize in recognition of the achievement. He went on to work with Frederick Soddy investigating radioactivity, and they provided experimental evidence for Rutherford's theory of radioactive disintegration.

During his lifetime, Ramsay won a host of awards and honorary degrees in Britain and abroad. He was created KCB in 1902.