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Henry Clifton Sorby

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Henry Clifton Sorby (1826-1908) was born on the 10th May 1826 into an old Sheffield family, being the grandson of a Master Cutler. After completing his education both at Sheffield Collegiate School and by private tuition he devoted his life to scientific research, being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society at the early age of 31. His published papers, which number over 150, include research in chemistry, metallurgy, biology and geology. His best known work was in the last of these fields, in particular in microscopy. He pioneered the basic techniques of microscopic petrology and of modern metallography, and invented the microspectroscope.

Sorby took a keen interest in education and during the 1860s had taken a leading part in an unsuccessful attempt to found a Technical School in Sheffield. Soon after the establishment of Firth College he became its Vice-President in 1881, President from 1882-1897, and Vice-President of the new University College, Sheffield, 1897-1905. With the inauguration of the University of Sheffield he served as a member of its Council from 1905 until his death on 9th March 1908.

The name of Sorby is perpetuated in the Sorby Chair (formerly of Geology, now Earth Sciences) in the University, the Sorby Research Fellowship of the Royal Society, and the Sorby Society of Sheffield. A biographical study by Norman Higham: A very scientific gentleman: the major achievements of Henry Clifton Sorby (Oxford, 1963) made much use of the diaries.

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The Sorby Natural History Society, Sheffield

Henry Clifton Sorby - Sheffield's Greatest Scientist

by Valerie Clinging

Extract :

Henry Clifton Sorby was undoubtedly the greatest scientist that Sheffield has ever produced yet his work is not well known to non-scientists and few people, even in his own home town, are aware of the many scientific achievements of this great man.

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Including a portrait painted by Mrs M. L. Waller (presented to Dr. Sorby by Sheffield Lit. & Phil. Society, in commemoration of his fifty years connection with the Society).


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