- Sir James Dewar (1842-1923)
Remembered mainly for his invention of the vacuum flask, James Dewar was also a brilliant experimental physicist. He was born at Kincardine-on-Forth on September 20, 1842 and was educated at Edinburgh University. In 1875 he became professor of experimental philosophy at Cambridge and then at the Royal Institution in 1877.
He researched the liquefaction of gases and the property of matter at extremely low temperatures. He was the first person to liquefy, and later solidify, hydrogen and show that metals had increased ability to conduct electricity at low temperatures. Using charcoal as an absorbing agent, he separated hydrogen, neon and helium from the air and created the highest known vacuum of his day. He discovered cordite jointly with Sir Frederick Abel.
It was his work at low temperatures which led to the idea of the thermos or vacuum flask. It had double walls with a vacuum between and silvering on the inner walls helped to reflect heat. Of course his invention could be used equally well to keep liquids hot as well as cold.
He became president of the British Association in 1904 and was knighted in 1904. He died on March 27, 1923.
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