Collection T-YOU - James 'Paraffin' Young papers

Identity area

Reference code

GB 249 T-YOU


James 'Paraffin' Young papers


  • 1830-1958 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

2.4 metres

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

James Young was born in Glasgow in 1811. He attended Professor Thomas Graham's chemistry lectures at Anderson's University in 1830, became Graham's assistant in 1832 and followed him to University College, London in 1837. He became manager of the chemical works of James Muspratt, St Helens, Lancashire in 1838, and moved to Tennants, Clow & Co of Ardwick, Manchester in 1844. In 1848, Young established an oil refinery at Alfreton, Derbyshire with James Oakes, and in 1850 he was granted a 14 year patent for a process to extract oil from cannel coal. He subsequently entered into partnership with Edward Binney and Edward Meldrum for the manufacture of oils from Boghead cannel coal at Bathgate, West Lothian, and began the sale of paraffin. Young embarked on considerable litigation against other companies who had attempted to infringe his patent. In 1865, Young bought out his business partners and a year later established Young's Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company, with new works at Addiewell, Bathgate. He also patented other industrial processes.

James Young was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1861 and of the Royal Society in 1873. From 1868-1877 he was President of Anderson's University, and a great benefactor to the University. He founded the Young Chair of Technical Chemistry in 1869. He was a lifelong friend of David Livingstone, who had been a medical student at Anderson's University in the 1830s, and funded Livingstone's African expeditions. He was a keen yachtsman and made long voyages with family and friends on his yacht, 'Nyanza'. Young continued his scientific experiments in retirement, notably on the velocity of light, with Professor George Forbes of Anderson's University. In 1879, Young was awarded the degree of LLD of St Andrews University.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The Young Papers were donated to the Royal College of Science and Technology in 1959 by Miss Alice Thom, grand-daughter of James Young.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Diaries and notebooks; correspondence; patents and legal cases; financial papers; technical and scientific notes; newspaper cuttings; educational and personal items.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access


Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English
  • French
  • German

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Photographs of James Young [ref: GB 249 OP/4/36-41]

The Young Collection of rare books on chemistry and alchemy (Andersonian Library, University of Strathclyde) []

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description identifier

Institution identifier




Accession area

Related people and organizations

Related genres

Related places