Gamble, Josias (or Josiah) Christopher (1778–1848), presbyterian minister and chemical manufacturer, was born in August 1778, fourth of five sons of David Gamble, farmer, from near Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, whose wife's maiden name was Rutherford, and who also had a daughter. There were several Gamble families locally: it is not known how David Gamble, a leader of the United Irishmen in Fermanagh, was connected, and it is uncertain if another Josias Gamble, also related to a David Gamble who was one of the pioneers after 1781 of what became the new state of Tennessee, was of the same family.
Josias's elder brother George emigrated to America, where his son James Gamble (qv) founded the firm of Procter & Gamble. In 1794 Josias entered Glasgow University, where he was an exact contemporary of William Hamilton Drummond (qv). He studied medicine and was particularly interested in chemistry. (According to the Glasgow matriculation albums, a Josias C. Gamble graduated MD in 1787 – clearly impossible for the subject of this essay, and even 1797 would be unlikely). Josias Gamble from Fermanagh, intending to become a presbyterian minister, graduated with an MA (1797), was licensed to preach (1798) by Clogher presbytery, and was ordained minister of Enniskillen (24 December 1799). He continued chemical experimentation, and kept up to date with the rapid developments of bleaching and allied technologies; for local linen manufacturers, he was able to prepare chlorine gas, whose bleaching properties had been demonstrated in 1785. In February 1804 he resigned from his congregation and spent some time in Belfast. A textile business in Dublin was owned by Baptist Gamble (probably a relative), and Josias seems to have moved to Dublin to establish a chemical manufactory in Meath St. about 1806, and in new premises in Lurgan St. from 1815; he produced chlorine-based bleaching powder, sulphuric acid, and also alum, used as a mordant in the textile industry. He married (16 September 1820) Hanna, daughter of Henry Gower, a Dublin solicitor; they had a son, David (b. 3 February 1823, in Dublin), and three daughters who died young. The Gambles moved to England shortly after David's birth, and in 1828 Josias entered a partnership with James Muspratt (qv) to establish in St Helens, Lancashire, a soda factory which used the Leblanc method. Gamble continued to develop his enterprise there after the partnership ended in 1830, and from 1836 was in partnership with local soapboilers to establish a successful soap, alkali, and sulphuric acid industry. The partnership ended acrimoniously when his design for a tower to condense and recover hydrochloric acid was rejected by his colleagues. He patented several improvements to chemical processes, and designed his own factories, but was in poor health for the last years of his life. He died 27 January 1848 in St Helens.
After he studied chemistry at University College, London (1839–40), and at the Andersonian College, Glasgow, David Gamble (1823–1907) joined the business in 1843; it was known as J. C. Gamble & Son – having had some minor changes of name and short-lived partnerships – even after Josias Gamble died. For the rest of the century, David Gamble oversaw the development of the business and of St Helens; Gamble's firm became one of the biggest in the British chemical industry. He was instrumental in setting up (1891) the United Alkali Company, which merged several firms to challenge more effectively a newly introduced manufacturing process which threatened their markets and profitability. He encouraged a young inventor named Weldon, who as a result patented an important new process of chemical decomposition of salt. David Gamble was the most important person in St Helens in his day: he was its first mayor (1869–70; again 1882–3 and 1886–7), and was lieutenant-colonel in a Volunteer regiment which he had founded. In 1893, to promote technical training, he gave £25,000 to the town for an institute and library, the nucleus of St Helens College. Gamble also supported primary education, and for three years gave a tenth of his income to the Anti-Corn Law League, but was defeated by fifty-seven votes when he stood as a liberal for parliament in 1885. He gave large amounts of money to local collections for the victims of the Irish famine in the 1840s. He was created baronet (31 August 1897) and KCB (1904). He married (26 January 1847) Elizabeth Haddock (d. 1899), daughter of a local coalmine owner; they had six sons and five daughters, most of whom survived him at his death in St Helens on 4 February 1907.