Review of Reviews,  16 (1897), 223–33.

Character Sketch. Sir Isaac Holden

Emily Crawford


Regular Feature, Biography


Invention, Machinery, Mechanics, Institutions, Lecturing, Industrial Chemistry, Patents, Physiology, Ageing, Health, Nutrition, Natural Philosophy, Christianity

    Describes the life of the late Isaac Holden, the Scottish inventor who effected several improvements in the machinery involved in the manufacture of yarn and wool. As a young man Holden helped form the mechanic's institute at Reading, and 'mechanic's institutes were his colleges until he was over forty'. At Reading he 'gave lectures on natural philosophy and chemistry. A demonstration at a chemical lecture was destined to make a mark in the world. It was to show on the end of a stick how sulphur and phosphorous could ignite. An attentive lad went home and related the experiment to his father. They repeated it, with the result that the father patented the lucifer match!'. (235) Holden then went to Yorkshire and made his fortune in the wool-combing business by 'inventing a comb with a square action to imitate the motion of the hands', and later he became 'the partner of the present Lord Masham, then Mr. Samuel Lister' (236). Also relates how Holden 'found time to attend scientific lectures at the Sorbonne', where 'he heard Flourens lecture on physiology and the means to ensure health and long life. He had already learned a good deal of what Flourens taught in John Wesley's "Natural Philosophy" [...] a well regulated mind and desires, the sparing use, when old, of food containing phosphates of lime, such as bread, and of meat, unless one had to do heavy muscular work' (238).

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