Young, James

BORN 13 Jul 1811, Glasgow: Shuttle Street, Drygate - DIED 13 May 1883, Wemyss Bay, Renfrewshire: Kelly House
GRAVE LOCATION Inverkip, Renfrewshire: Inverkip Cemetery, Millhouse Road (OId section)

James Young was the son of the carpenter and cabinetmaker John Young and his wife Jean Wilson. He was taught by his father but also attented evening classes in Chemistry at the Anderson's College. There he met the new lecturer Thomas Graham (1805-1869). In 1831 he became Graham's assistant. He also became a friend of the explorer David Livingstone. He contributed to Livingstone's expeditions and the friendship would continue until Livingstone's death.

In 1837 Young published his first paper and in it he described a modification of Faraday's battery. In the same year he followed Graham to London University. On 21 August 1838 he married Mary Young and in 1839 he moved to Lancashire with her. He worked as a manger at James Muspratt's chemical works near St Helens. In 1844 he relocated to Manchester to join Tennants, Clow & Co.

After he left Tennants in 1848 he partnered with Edward Meldrum to refine crude oil. His experiments resulted in a slow distillation process that produced a liquid that he named 'paraffine oil'. He patented his oils and his paraffin wax in 1850. In 1851 he started a partnership that resulted in the first commercial refinery in the world in Bathgate that refined mineral oil. In 1852 he left Manchester to live in Scotland. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1861. By 1865 he had built a works at Addiewell near West Calder, at the time one of the largest chemical works in Scotland. His company sold paraffin oil and praffin lamps and he was nicknamed 'Paraffin' Young.

By 1871 his wife had died and with his children he had moved to Kelly House near Wemyss Bay. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1873. From 1879 to 1881 he served as Vice-President of the Chemical Society. In 1883 he died at Wemyss Bay.


Display about James 'Paraffin' Young at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow.
Picture by Androom (02 Jul 2023)


The grave of James Young at Inverkip Cemetery in Inverkip, Renfrewshire.
Picture by Androom (03 Jul 2023)


The grave of James Young at Inverkip Cemetery in Inverkip, Renfrewshire.
Picture by Androom (03 Jul 2023)


James Young (chemist) - Wikipedia
Dictionary of National Biography - Wikisource, the free online library

Ysaye, Eugène

Published: 09 Jul 2023
Last update: 02 Jun 2024