Arthur Aikin

Arthur Aikin bigraphy, stories - chemist, mineralogist, scientific writer

Arthur Aikin : biography

19 May 1773 – 15 April 1854

Arthur Aikin, FLS, FGS (19 May 1773 – 15 April 1854) was an English chemist, mineralogist and scientific writer.


He was born at Warrington, Lancashire into a distinguished literary family of prominent Unitarians. He was born into a family of writers, the best known of whom was his paternal aunt, Anna Letitia Barbauld, a woman of letters who wrote poetry and essays as well as early children’s literature. His father, Dr John Aikin, was a medical doctor, historian, and author. His grandfather, also called John Aikin (1713–1780), was a Unitarian scholar and theological tutor, closely associated with Warrington Academy. His sister was Lucy Aikin (1781–1864), a historical writer.

Arthur Aikin studied chemistry under Joseph Priestley in the New College at Hackney, and gave attention to the practical applications of the science. In early life he was a Unitarian minister for a short time. Aikin lectured on chemistry at Guy’s Hospital for thirty-two years. From 1803 to 1808 he was editor of Annual Review. He was one of the founders of the Geological Society of London in 1807 and was its honorary secretary in 1812–1817. He contributed papers on the Wrekin and the Shropshire coalfield, among others, to the transactions of that society. Later he became Secretary of the Royal Society of Arts. He was founder of the Chemical Society of London in 1841, being its first Treasurer and second President.

He was highly esteemed as a man of sound judgment and wide knowledge, he was also elected as FRSA, having served as its Secretary. Aikin died at Hoxton in London.


  • Journal of a Tour through North Wales and Part of Shropshire with Observations in Mineralogy and Other Branches of Natural History (London, 1797)
  • A Manual of Mineralogy (1814; ed. 2, 1815)
  • A Dictionary of Chemistry and Mineralogy (with his brother C. R. Aikin), 2 vols. (London, 1807, 1814).

For Rees’s Cyclopaedia he wrote articles about Chemistry, Geology and Mineralogy, but the topics are not known.