University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > SCI Cambridge Science Talks > History of Science : Gaiters and gunpowder - the extraordinary story of Richard Watson, professor of chemistry and bishop.

History of Science : Gaiters and gunpowder - the extraordinary story of Richard Watson, professor of chemistry and bishop.

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Richard Watson was the 5th Professor of Chemistry at Cambridge, from 1764 to 1771. He was skilled in applied chemistry and wrote the famous Chemical Essays. He then moved from Chemistry to Theology and later still became Bishop of Llandaff, where he acquired an unenviable reputation for never being there. Nor was he at Cambridge, for he returned to his native Cumbria where he erected a splendid mansion, became a keen agriculturalist, introduced hundreds of foreign trees into the Lake District, still experimented in chemistry and came up with a greatly improved form of gunpowder, just at the time when the British Navy most needed it. Did his work contribute to the defeat of France in the Napoleonic Wars? Come and find out!

This talk was prepared to mark the tercentenary of the Chair of Chemistry at Cambridge, the oldest continuously occupied chair of chemistry in Britain. (See “The 1702 Chair of Chemistry at Cambridge, Transformation and Change”, edited by Mary D. Archer, University of Cambridge).

This talk is part of the SCI Cambridge Science Talks series.

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