James Keir, Scottish pioneer in industrial chemistry, c 1790.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
After an early career in the army, James Keir (1735-1820) became a member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham, alongside Joseph Priestly and Josiah Wedgwood. Keir then established a glas-making busines in Stourbridge which he abandonded in 1778 to manage Boulton and Watt's engineering works. In 1780 he founded the Tipton alkali works, which is often regarded as the start of the scientific chemical industry. Keir is also known for his translation of Macquer's 'Dictionary of Chemistry' (1776).