James Moir (1874–1929) Pioneering Chemical Analyst in South Africa in the Early 1900s
James Moir, a pioneering chemist in SouthAfrica, played a leading role in the SA Chemical Institute. He was an excellent organic chemist, who published widely on the relationship between the colour of an organic substance and its chemical structure. In addition to this, he worked as an analyst in the Government Chemical Laboratories in Johannesburg, where he was exposed to a wide variety of chemical analyses. He developed many new methods of analysis and improved others, which he published in the official journal of the Chemical Institute. This article traces his chemical analysis research work as gleaned from the pages of this journal. It deals with coal analysis, where he developed a simple formula to predict the calorific value, determination of nitrous fumes in air with special reference to fuse-igniters, improving the structure of methyl orange as an indicator, analysis of metals such as Cu, Co, As and Cr, and cyanide analysis. Furthermore, the article discusses his sensitive test for phenol and gives a case study where he did some chemical detective work. From all of this, it is apparent that James Moir was a very fine analyst. He is commemorated by Chemistry students for the ‘James Moir Medal’, awarded annually to the top BSc (Hons) or BTech student at South African universities.
KEYWORDS:Analysis, early 1900s, education, pioneering chemist, SACI.
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