|Description||Hope was born on 21 July 1766 in Edinburgh, the son of John Hope (1725-1786), professor of botany at the University of Edinburgh. He entered the University of Edinburgh where he studied botany and chemistry. On his father's death he applied unsuccessfully for his chair. The following year, 1787, he graduated MD at Edinburgh, and through the influence of his uncle, Alexander Stevenson, professor of medicine in the University of Glasgow, was elected lecturer in chemistry and materia medica at Glasgow. Although previously a believer in the phlogiston theory, in 1788 he became the first in Britain to teach the alternative views of Lavoisier, to whose opinions he was converted by Sir James Hall (1761-1832).|
In 1789 his uncle secured for Hope appointments as his assistant and successor. On Stevenson's death in 1791 Hope assumed the chair of medicine which he held until October 1795. He was physician and clinical lecturer to the Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, opened in 1794, but continued to conduct private research in chemistry. In 1793 he communicated to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of which he had become a fellow in 1788, his paper on the first known compound of strontium. Joseph Black, professor of chemistry and medicine at Edinburgh, was so impressed by this discovery of a new chemical element that he secured for Hope, his former pupil, the post of assistant professor from November 1795. In 1797-8 Hope took over all Black's lectures and succeeded him in 1799.
As professor at Edinburgh, Hope did not neglect medicine. For several years he lectured on clinical medicine and, having been elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, in 1796, was its secretary (1798-1803), treasurer (1803-9), and president (1815-19). He wrote the chemical part of the tenth edition of its Pharmacopoeia (1817). In 1810 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London. As a chemist, he was initially innovative in teaching and research. He continued to promote the new chemistry of Lavoisier, and for several years he was the only Scottish professor who advocated the geological views of James Hutton.
Until 1823 Hope provided no opportunities for his chemistry students to do practical work. He then grudgingly arranged for his own lecture assistant, John Wilson Anderson, to run a practical class at his own responsibility and risk. By the early 1830s Hope was under threat. In 1833 David Boswell Reid (1805-1863), then in charge of the practical class, lobbied Edinburgh town council, which supervised the university, to create a separate chair of practical chemistry. This proposal was successfully opposed by the university senate and by Hope who vigorously defended his professorial monopoly. By this point, indifferent to research, to practical chemistry, and to contact with industry, he resisted any addition to the lecturing which had brought him esteem and wealth for three decades. Next year the town council seriously considered but rejected the establishment of a separate lectureship in practical chemistry.
Hope maintained his control of practical chemistry at the cost of publicly displayed ill will, the discrediting of the university's course of practical chemistry, and a severe drop in the size of his class and income from 1833. He continued to teach until summer 1843 when he resigned his chair; his last class numbered only 118. After a long illness Hope died of paralysis on 13 June 1844 at his home.
[Source: Dictionary of National Biography]
Contents: Clinical casebook, 1796-1797