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Robert Angus Smith

Robert Angus Smith (February 15, 1817–May 12, 1884) was a Scottish chemist, who investigated numerous environmental issues. He is famous for his research on air pollution in 1852, in the course of which he discovered and coined the term acid rain.

Born Pollokshaws, Glasgow, Smith was educated at the University of Glasgow in preparation for ministry in the Church of Scotland but left before graduating. He worked as a personal tutor and, accompanying a family to Gießen in 1839, he stayed on in Germany to study chemistry under Justus von Liebig, earning a Ph.D. in 1841.[1]

On returning to England the same year, he again considered Holy Orders but instead was attracted to Manchester to join the chemical laboratory of Lyon Playfair at the Royal Manchester Institution. Here he became involved in some of the environmental issues of the world's first industrial city (see History of Manchester). Playfair left for greener pastures in 1845 and Smith worked at making a living as an independent analytical chemist. After some initial alarming experiences, Smith refused to take on expert witness work which was a staple of consulting scientists of the day and which he saw as corrupt. Consequently, when the Alkali Inspectorate was established by the Alkali Act 1863, Smith's integrity made him the natural candidate. He held the post until his death.[1]

In 1872 Smith published the book Air and Rain: the Beginnings of a Chemical Climatology, which presents his studies of the chemistry of atmospheric precipitation.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Hamlin (2004)


  • Obituary:
    • Nature, 30 (1884), 104–5

  • Eyler, J. (1980). "The conversion of Angus Smith: the changing role of chemistry and biology in sanitary science, 1850–1880". Bulletin of the History of Medicine 54: 216–34.
  • Gibson, A. & Farrar, W. V. (1973–4). "Robert Angus Smith, FRS, and sanitary science". Notes and Records of the Royal Society 28: 241–62.
  • Gorham, E. (1982). "Robert Angus Smith, F.R.S., and 'Chemical Climatology.'". Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London: 267–72.
  • Hamlin, C. (2004) "Smith, (Robert) Angus (1817–1884)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, accessed 10 Aug 2007 (subscription required)
  • Kargon, R. H. (1977). Science in Victorian Manchester: Enterprise and Expertise. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-1969-5. 
  • MacLeod, R. M. (1965). "The Alkali Acts Administration, 1863–84: The Emergence of the Civil Scientist". Victorian Studies: 85–112.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Robert_Angus_Smith". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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