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The Life of William Nicholson, 1753-1815

A Memoir of Enlightenment, Commerce, Politics, Arts and Science

William Nicholson



Sue Durrell


Written in 1868, the publication of this memoir (now in the Bodleian Library) acts as prelude to a comprehensive biography of the extraordinary William Nicholson, author, inventor, patent agent and civil engineer, published later in 2018. This is a memoir of enlightenment, commerce, politics, arts and science, in an age of revolution.
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"a tribute to our better natures"

The Guardian

A prominent member of a flourishing scientific and literary community, William Nicholson, author, patent agent and civil engineer, founded a widely-circulated journal (universally known as 'Nicholson's Journal'), which helped establish Humphry Davy's reputation. He was the first person to decompose water by electrolysis and was the inventor of cylindrical printing. Despite this, little has been written about his colourful life. This memoir, written by his son in 1868, now published for the first time, revisits London's rich cultural scene at the end of the eighteenth century, documenting Nicholson's overlooked part in this milieu of consilience and revolution. From inventions and significant contributions to science, to his work in literature and his friendships with the leading lights of the period, such as Sir Joseph Banks, Thomas Holcroft and William Godwin (he was invited to make a phrenological study of the infant Mary Shelley), William Nicholson's life reads as a microcosm of an Enlightenment making way for Romanticism. Bringing together Jacobin intrigue and a cast of familiar characters, it will please historians of the era and historians of science alike
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Book publisherPeter Owen Publishers
Publication date22 Feb 2018
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