The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

VIII. The Literature of Science

§ 24. Thomas Graham

Thomas Graham was a shy, retiring man, most of whose life was spent in his laboratory. There is a tradition in the Glasgow institution, where he taught chemistry in his younger days, before moving to London (in his later years he was master of the mint), that, when he came into the lecture theatre, to deliver his first lecture to a large audience, he looked around in dismay and fled.

Graham established the fundamental phenomena of the diffusion of gases and of liquids; he distinguished, and applied the distinction, between crystalloids, solutions of which pass through animal and vegetable membrances, and colloids, which do not pass through those membranes. The investigation of the behaviour of colloidal substances has led in recent years, to great advances in the knowledge of phenomena common to chemistry, physics and biology.

Electrochemistry, the study of the connections between chemical and electrical actions, has been productive, in recent years, of more far-reaching results than have been obtained in any other branch of physical chemistry. Much of what has been done in the last half-century is based on the work of Faraday, and, indirectly, on the suggestion of Davy. Both were men of genius, that is, men who see the central position of the problem they are investigating, who seize and hold that position until the problem is solved, letting the surface phenomena, for the time, “go to the dogs, what matters?” Men of genius work from the centre outwards.