Thomas Young

Polymath + Physicist
Born Jun 13, 1773

Thomas Young was an English polymath. He is famous for having partly deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics before Jean-François Champollion eventually expanded on his work. He was admired by, among others, Herschel, Helmholtz, Maxwell, and Einstein. Young made notable scientific contributions to the fields of vision, light, solid mechanics, energy, physiology, language, musical harmony and Egyptology.… Read More

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1773 Birth Young belonged to a Quaker family of Milverton, Somerset, where he was born in 1773, the eldest of ten children. … Read More
1782 9 Years Old However, the first use of the concept of Young's modulus in experiments was by Giordano Riccati in 1782 – predating Young by 25 years.


1792 19 Years Old Young began to study medicine in London at St Bartholomew's Hospital in 1792, moved to the University of Edinburgh Medical School in 1794, and a year later went to Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany, where he obtained the degree of doctor of medicine in 1796 from the University of Göttingen.


1797 24 Years Old In 1797 he entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
1799 26 Years Old In the same year he inherited the estate of his granduncle, Richard Brocklesby, which made him financially independent, and in 1799 he established himself as a physician at 48 Welbeck Street, London (now recorded with a blue plaque). … Read More
1801 28 Years Old In 1801 Young was appointed professor of natural philosophy (mainly physics) at the Royal Institution. … Read More
1802 29 Years Old In 1802, he was appointed foreign secretary of the Royal Society, of which he had been elected a fellow in 1794.


1803 30 Years Old 1 More Event
He resigned his professorship in 1803, fearing that its duties would interfere with his medical practice. … Read More
1804 31 Years Old In the subsequent paper entitled Experiments and Calculations Relative to Physical Optics, published in 1804, Young describes an experiment in which he placed a narrow card (approx. 1/30th in.) in a beam of light from a single opening in a window and observed the fringes of colour in the shadow and to the sides of the card. … Read More
1807 34 Years Old 1 More Event
Young described the characterization of elasticity that came to be known as Young's modulus, denoted as E, in 1807, and further described it in his Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts.
1808 35 Years Old In physiology Young made an important contribution to haemodynamics in the Croonian lecture for 1808 on the "Functions of the Heart and Arteries," where he derived a formula for the wave speed of the pulse and his medical writings included An Introduction to Medical Literature, including a System of Practical Nosology (1813) and A Practical and Historical Treatise on Consumptive Diseases (1815). … Read More


1813 40 Years Old 1 More Event
In a separate work in 1813, he introduced the term Indo-European languages, 165 years after the Dutch linguist and scholar Marcus Zuerius van Boxhorn proposed the grouping to which this term refers in 1647.
1814 41 Years Old By 1814 Young had completely translated the "enchorial" (demotic, in modern terms) text of the Rosetta Stone (he had a list with 86 demotic words), and then studied the hieroglyphic alphabet but initially failed to recognise that the demotic and hieroglyphic texts were paraphrases and not simple translations. … Read More
1818 45 Years Old Some of Young's conclusions appeared in the famous article "Egypt" he wrote for the 1818 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.
1822 49 Years Old 1 More Event
Young was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1822.


1823 - 1826 2 More Events
1827 54 Years Old A few years before his death he became interested in life insurance, and in 1827 he was chosen one of the eight foreign associates of the French Academy of Sciences.
1828 55 Years Old In 1828, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
1829 56 Years Old Thomas Young died in London on 10 May 1829, and was buried in the cemetery of St. Giles Church in Farnborough, Kent, England. … Read More
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