William Henry (chemist)

William Henry
Born 12 December 1774
Manchester, England
Died 2 September 1836 (1836-09-03) (aged 61)
Pendlebury, England
Nationality English
Fields chemistry
Known for Henry's law
Notable awards Copley Medal (1808)

William Henry (12 December 1774 – 2 September 1836) was an English chemist. He was the son of Thomas Henry and was born in Manchester England.[1][2] He developed what is known today as Henry's Law.


William Henry was apprenticed to Thomas Percival and later worked with John Ferriar & John Huit at the Manchesters Infirmary. He began to study medicine at Edinburgh in 1795, taking his medical in 1807, but ill-health[3] interrupted his practice as a physician, and he devoted his time mainly to chemical research, especially with regard to gases. One of his best-known papers (published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1803) describes experiments on the quantity of gases absorbed by water at different temperatures and under different pressures.[4] His results are known today as Henry's law. His other papers deal with gas-analysis, fire-damp, illuminating gas, the composition of hydrochloric acid and of ammonia, urinary and other morbid concretions, and the disinfecting powers of heat. His Elements of Experimental Chemistry (1799) enjoyed considerable vogue in its day, going through eleven editions in 30 years. He was one of the founders of the Mechanics' Institute that was to become the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in February 1809, having been awarded their prestigious Copley Medal in 1808.[5]

He shot himself in his private chapel at Pendlebury, near Manchester, in 1836.[1]


  1. 1 2 Greenaway, Frank (2004). "Henry, William (1774–1836)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/12981. Retrieved 2011-07-18. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  2. The Book of Manchester and Salford; for the British Medical Association. Manchester: George Falkner & Sons, 1929; pp. 34-35
  3. An injury in childhood caused him intermittent pain throughout his life.
  4. Henry, William (January 1, 1803). "Experiments on the Quantity of Gases Absorbed by Water, at Different Temperatures, and under Different Pressures". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. London. 93: 29–274. doi:10.1098/rstl.1803.0004.
  5. "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 18 November 2010.

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