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William Gregor

William Gregor (25 December 1761 – 11 June 1817) was the British clergyman and mineralogist who discovered the elemental metal titanium.



Early years

He was born in Trewarthenick, Cornwall, the son of Francis Gregor and Mary Copley. He was educated at Bristol Grammar School, where he became interested in chemistry, then after two years with a private tutor entered St John's College, Cambridge from where he graduated BA in 1784. He proceeded to the MA and was ordained in the Church of England. He became vicar of St Mary's Church Diptford near Totnes Devon. He married Charlotte Anne Gwatkin in 1790 and they had one daughter.

Discovery of titanium

  After a brief interval at Bratton Clovelly, William and his family moved permanently to the rectory of Creed in Cornwall. Here, he began a remarkably accurate chemical analysis of Cornish minerals. In 1791, while studying ilmenite from the Manaccan valley, he isolated the calx of an unknown metal which he named manaccanite.[1] Later in 1791, Martin Heinrich Klaproth discovered what is now known as titanium in the mineral rutile. Believing this to be a new discovery, he named it Titanium after the Titans of Greek Mythology, eventually it was clarified that Gregor made the discovery first. Gregor was credited with the discovery, but the element kept the name chosen by Klaproth. Gregor later found titanium in corundum from Tibet, and in a tourmaline from a local tin mine.

Death and legacy

Gregor was an original member of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall in 1814. [2] Never letting his scientific work interfere with his pastoral duties, he was also a distinguished landscape painter, etcher and musician. He died of tuberculosis on 11 June 1817 and was buried in a nearby churchyard.


  1. ^
  2. ^ G. C. Boase, ‘Gregor, William (1761–1817)’, rev. Anita McConnell, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2005 accessed 15 Nov 2007


  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "William_Gregor". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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