Our history

As a department, we're over 200 years old. In that time, we've built a reputation for being at the forefront of chemistry education and research.

Anderson's institution

When the University was first created as Anderson's Institution in 1796, Thomas Garnett was appointed as Professor of Physics and Philosophy, and Lecturer in Chemistry. He gave his first lecture on Natural Philosophy and Chemistry on October 26, the same year.

Garnett's lectures led the development of chemistry here at Strathclyde. He devoted much of his lectures to chemistry as it applied to the "arts and manufactures of the country".

He was so successful that he was offered a Professor position at the Royal Institution in London in 1799.

George Birkbeck took over Garnett's position here. He began by seeking the attendance of workmen and operatives at his classes, along with persuading women to attend the courses.

Birkbeck resigned in 1804 and was replaced by Andrew Ure who stayed until 1830. His Chemistry lectures claimed to be the most comprehensive given in any public institution.

Alongside lecturing, he made contacts with industry, both locally and nationwide.

The Chair of Chemistry

In 1830 the first Chair of Chemistry was established. The first occupant of the Chair was Thomas Graham who established his reputation with his laws of gaseous diffusion.

In 1870 the Young Chair of Chemical Technology was created with financial support from James Young, founder of the Scottish shale oil industry and president of Anderson's University.

We've seen a succession of eminent chemists who've occupied these positions over the years who've been predecessors of the University of Strathclyde.

These include:

  • W Dittmar, noted for his work on qualitative and quantitative analysis, particularly on the composition of sea water
  • GG Henderson, President of the Society of Chemical Industry. He was also elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society for his research in terpene chemistry
  • IM Heilbron, recognised for his application of advanced techniques to better understand properties of naturally occurring substances
  • RM Caven, published well known texts on chemical analysis
  • WM Cumming, supervised research work on explosives during the WWII
  • FS Spring, elected FRS for his work on steroids


Dr Henry Faulds (1843 - 1930) is one of the pioneers of modern fingerprinting. He graduated with a Physician's Licence from Anderson's University in 1860, as our University was then known.

Dr Faulds realised, while on an archaeological dig, that fingerprints could uniquely identify individuals. He was aware of the potential for this in a criminal context and offered his concept to Scotland Yard.

Unfortunately his idea was rejected. This was most likely because he didn't present a practical system.

Drug discovery

In recent years our scientists Peter Pauson, JM Ottaway, AM North and Hamish Wood have all been recognised nationally and internationally for their work in various areas of Chemistry.

Peter Pauson (1925 - 2013), for his seminal work on the organometallic compound, ferrocene.

Hamish Wood developed Leucovorin in collaboration with Professor Colin Suckling and their collaborators. It's an anti-cancer drug, now used across Europe, to treat colo-rectal cancers. The technology has earned around £6 million in royalties for the University. Professor Suckling received an OBE in 2006 for services to Science and Higher Education.