Watson, Richard | A Plan of a Course of Chemical Lectures

  • First and only edition of this unusual and uncommon course of chemistry lectures.

    Author Richard Watson, Bishop of Llandaff (1737-1816), attended Trinity College, Cambridge and was appointed its professor of chemistry in 1764. “Hitherto the chair had not been valued, since it carried neither a stipend nor a requirement to read lectures, but Watson perceived it as a way to advance his career and offered to deliver a course of chemistry lectures, though he admitted 'I knew nothing at all of Chemistry, had never read a syllable on the subject; nor seen a single experiment in it; but I was tired with mathematics and natural philosophy' (Anecdotes, 28–9). He acquired an operator from Paris, studied the topic fully, and in fourteen months gave the first of five courses of lectures. In 1767 an unsuccessful experiment led to an explosion that caused considerable damage to his house. He contributed short articles to the transactions of the Royal Society, of which he was elected a fellow in 1769, and later he published his Chemical Essays in five volumes (1781–7). These are intelligent and lucid but derivative, revealing Watson as an intelligent layman not a research scientist. They show a particular interest in applying science to manufacturing processes and a belief that chemistry could help to realize Britain's industrial potential” (ODNB).

    Watson was later elected regius professor of divinity, but “lacking the necessary qualification of a doctorate in divinity he rushed to London to obtain one by royal mandate. He admitted to knowing as little about the subject as he had about chemistry” (ODNB).

  • Cambridge: J. Archdeacon, printer to the University, 1771.

    Octavo. Stitched and glued into early 20th-century burgundy cloth boards, titles to upper board gilt, blue speckled edges. 3 folding typographic tables. 20th-century ownership signature of John Read to the front pastedown, old catalogue entry taped to the rear pastedown. Spine faded, a few small marks and spots on the cloth, title page partially browned, final folding table browned, edges of the other two tables browned. A very good copy.