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Service to Government and the Royal Society

Service to Government and the Royal Society


(p.281) Chapter 12 Service to Government and the Royal Society
Pure Intelligence
Melvyn C. Usselman
University of Chicago Press

This chapter describes several of Wollaston’s contributions to government committees and the Royal Society. In 1803 he was appointed to a committee that was to recommend to the Excise Office the best means of quantifying the alcohol content of spirits, and Wollaston superintended the introduction of the Sikes’ hydrometer as the official measuring instrument. He also made recommendations to a Committee on Weights and Measures which resulted in the Imperial units adopted in 1824. Experiments with Smithson Tennant that demonstrated that flame could not pass through narrow tubes preceded Humphry Davy’s discoveries that led to the invention of the Davy lamp for miners. In 1818 he began a decade-long term as a resident commissioner of the Board of Longitude. In 1820 Wollaston served as interim President of the Royal Society, but elected not to oppose Davy for a longer term, despite support from the reform-minded members of the Society.

Keywords:   William Hyde Wollaston, Excise taxes, alcoholometry, Sikes’ hydrometer, weights and measures, Smithson Tennant, Davy lamp, Humphry Davy, Board of Longitude, President of the Royal Society

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