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James Thomson Bottomley

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James Thomson Bottomley (1845-1926).

Nephew of Lord Kelvin.

1885 Electric Resistance of Platinoid in The Engineer 1885/07/03.

1900 Joined the firm Kelvin and James White Ltd, with his uncle Lord Kelvin.


1926 Obituary [1]

JAMES THOMSON BOTTOMLEY, M.A., D.Sc, LL.D., F.R.S., who died in Glasgow on the 18th May, 1926, was born in Belfast on the 10th January, 1845. His father was William Bottomley, a J.P. of Belfast, and his mother a sister of the late Lord Kelvin.

He was educated at Queen's College, Belfast, and Trinity College, Dublin, where he had a distinguished career and was gold medallist when he took the degrees of B.A. and M.A.

He started his scientific career by becoming assistant to Prof. Andrews at Belfast, afterwards becoming a demonstrator of chemistry and physics in King's College, London, and in 1870 he came to Glasgow University to act as Arnott and Thomson demonstrator in the Department of Natural Philosophy, at the head of which was his uncle, Sir William Thomson. He held this position until 1899 when Lord Kelvin resigned from his professorship. During these 29 years Dr. Bottomley was continuously engaged in research work and his researches covered a very extensive field, including liquefaction of gases, the use of liquid air for experiments on radiation at very low temperatures, the air thermometer, the bolometer, emissivity and conductivity of wires in vacuum, radiation from bright and black bodies, vacuum pumps, thermocouples, modulus of elasticity, and the electrical properties of platinoid, etc. These papers were contributed mostly to the Proceedings of the Royal Society and the British Association Reports.

He published a book on Theoretical Mechanics, in two parts: Vol. I, Dynamics; Vol II, Hydrostatics. But as an author he is best known for his "Four-Figure Mathematical Tables: comprising logarithmic and trigonometrical tables, and tables of squares, square roots, and reciprocals."

As time went on Sir William Thomson delegated to Mr. Bottomley a good deal of the lecturing to students. He belonged to a type not uncommon in our universities, of distinguished scholars and amiable gentlemen, enthusiastic in their own department of study, and with every good desire in the world to help their students, but largely unable to impart their knowledge in the class room. Uncle and nephew were both deficient in this respect, the one in being too advanced and abstruse for the average student, the other in being too ridiculously simple. He elaborated the obvious, sometimes painfully, though unconsciously, wasting time striving to elucidate minor points which all understood. He did not seem able to state the salient points and pass on.

As consulting engineer Dr. Bottomley acted for the Scottish Asylums Board and for Nobels, Ltd.

He had a regular electrical engineering consulting practice, mostly concerned with lighting installations, such as Skibo Castle, Roxburgh Castle, etc.

Dr. Bottomley became associated with the business of Kelvin, Bottomley and Baird, when the firm was floated as a private limited company in 1900, and on the death of Lord Kelvin in 1907 he was appointed chairman, a position which he continued to fill until his death. In recognition of his distinction as a scientist and of his long and honourable connection with the Glasgow University the degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred upon him in November 1904.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution in 1872 and a Member in 1889. He was a Member of Council in 1873 and in 1910 served on the Committee of the Glasgow Local Section, now the Scottish Centre.


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