Sue Young Histories

William Crookes 1832 – 1919

June 20, 2010

William Crookes 1832 –
1919{::}** Sir William Crookes** OM, FRS 1832 – 1919 was a British chemist and physicist, Lecturer in Chemistry at the Chester Diocesan Training College, founder of the Chemical News, he discovered new compounds of selenium, and the element thallium. Crookes invented the the spinthariscope, the Crookes Tube, the ‘radiant state’, the radiometer,

In 1911, William Crookes encouraged his son Henry Crookes’s work on highly diluted suspensions of metals (‘in virtually homeopathic dilutions’) used as anti bacterials, which could be safely introduced into the human bloodstream, in such a way to prevent poisoning. William Crookes was President of the Royal Society and a close acquaintance of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. (William Hodson Brock, William Crookes (1832-1919) and the Commercialization of Science, (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008). Page 452 and multiple pages (Blavatsky)), and a member of The Theosophical Society (

William Crookes also made a thorough investigation of spiritualism (Madame Home, D D Home: His Life His Mission, (White Crow Productions Ltd, 1 Jun 2010). Multiple pages). William Crookes was a founder member of the Society for Physical Research, and he wrote Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism,

William Crookes’ own work on the ‘radiant state’ of substances is equivalent to Samuel Hahnemann’s ’infinitesimal state’ (Jean Pierre Gallavardin, The Homeopathic Treatment of Alcoholism, (Read Books, 30 Apr 2009)), as William Crookes explained ’the limit where matter and force shade off into each other, the shadowy realm between known and unknown” (Ernst Lehrs, Man Or Matter, (BiblioLife, 31 Oct 2007)).

William Crookes proposed that the ‘radiant state’ was a Fourth State of Matter, and Crookes’ experimental work in this field was the foundation of discoveries which eventually changed the whole of chemistry and physics (Crookes wholeheartedly supported the consequent research in electrons).

William Crookes wrote ‘…and to him (Paracelsus) some give the credit of the beginning of homeopathy. Previously there had been no advance in the healing art since Galen (Anon, The Chemical News and Journal of Industrial Science, Volumes 130-131, (1925). Page 66), and Paracelsus encountered much bitter opposition from the Galenic school…’

William Crookes invented the radiometer, which has since caused much scientific debate. Over the years, there have been many attempts to explain how a Crookes radiometer works, and Radiometers are now commonly sold worldwide as a novelty ornament.

William Crookes also Edited The Photographic News, and recommended adding chemicals to photographic solutions in homeopathic dilutions: ‘in this way homeopathic doses of nitric acid are given to a bath. We have heard it gravely recommended to add the 500th of a drop of acid to an 8 ounce bath’ (William Crookes, The Photographic news, ed. by W. Crookes. Vol.1, no.1 - vol.13, no.542; vol.33,34 [imperf. Incorporated with Amateur photographer], (1859). Page 23).

From Crookes was born in London, the eldest son of Joseph Crookes, a tailor of north-country origin whose second wife was Mary Scott.

From 1850 to 1854 he filled the position of assistant in the college, and soon embarked upon original work, not in organic chemistry where the inspiration of his teacher, August Wilhelm von Hofmann, might have been expected to lead him, but on new compounds of selenium. These formed the subject of his first published papers in 1851.

Leaving the Royal College, he became superintendent of the meteorological department at the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford in 1854, and in 1855 was appointed lecturer in chemistry at the Chester Diocesan Training College.

Married now and living in London, he was devoted mainly to independent work. After 1880, he lived at 7 Kensington Park Gardens, where all his later work was carried out in his private laboratory.

Crookes’s life was one of unbroken scientific activity. The breadth of his interests, ranging over pure and applied science, economic and practical problems, and psychical research, made him a well-known personality, and he received many public and academic honours.

In 1859, he founded the Chemical News, a science magazine which he edited for many years and conducted on much less formal lines than is usual with journals of scientific societies.

In 1861, Crookes discovered a previously unknown element with a bright green emission line in its spectrum and named the element thallium, from the Greek thallos, a green shoot. Crookes also identified the first known sample of helium, in 1895.

He was the inventor of the Crookes radiometer, which today is made and sold as a novelty item. He also developed the Crookes tubes, investigating canal rays.

In his investigations of the conduction of electricity in low pressure gases, he discovered that as the pressure was lowered, the negative electrode (cathode) appeared to emit rays (the so-called cathode rays, now known to be a stream of free electrons, and used in cathode ray display devices).

As these examples indicate, he was a pioneer in the construction and use of vacuum tubes for the study of physical phenomena. He was, as a consequence, one of the first scientists to investigate what are now called plasmas. He also devised one of the first instruments for the study of nuclear radioactivity, the spinthariscope.

Crookes was knighted in 1897, and in 1910 received the Order of Merit.

From William
Crookes photo of Florence Cook and James Manby
Gully ‘… Dr. J. M. Gully’s _[James Manby Gully] comments on recording Katie King’s pulse From ”The Proof Palpable of Immortality” by Epes Sargent. ** Dr. J. M. Gully, formerly of Great Malvern, England, a thoroughly experienced physician and a careful investigator, under date of July 20th, 1874, writes me as follows: ** “To the special question which you put regarding my experiences of the materialization of the spirit-form, with Miss Cook’s mediumship, I must reply that, after two years’ examination of the fact and numerous séances, I have not the smallest doubt, and have the strongest conviction, that such materialization takes place, and that not the slightest attempt at trick or deception is fairly attributable to any one who assisted at Miss Cook’s séances_…’


Any views or advice in this site should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice or treatment, especially if you know you have a specific health complaint