Young, Sydney (1857–1937), chemist, was born 29 December 1857 at Farnworth, Lancs., third son of Edward Young, JP and prosperous Liverpool merchant, and his wife Grace Martha, daughter of James Kimmins of Stonehouse, Glos. He was educated at a private school in Southport and at the Royal Institution, Liverpool. Afterwards he declined a position with his father's firm and entered Owens College, Manchester, to study chemistry. He matriculated in the University of London in 1877 and received a B.Sc. (1880) and Ph.D. (1883). He also spent some time at Strasbourg University. In his college days he was a keen swimmer and skater, and an enthusiastic sketcher and watercolour painter.
One of his first publications was a letter to Nature (1881), entitled ‘Hot ice’, which explained how ice vaporises without melting when heated at very low pressure. He was appointed (1882) lecturer in chemistry at University College, Bristol, where he continued his research on thermodynamics of vapour pressures of solids and liquids with Prof. William Ramsay. Together they wrote over thirty papers before he succeeded Ramsay as professor (1887), when Ramsay was appointed to the chair of chemistry in London University. The necessity of working with pure substances when investigating critical constants directed him towards new methods of purification. He investigated the behaviour of mixed liquids and designed his own ‘evaporator’ still-heads, becoming an expert glass-blower in the process. The industrial application of his work, specifically on the recovery of benzene and other alcohols, led to successful patents which offered royalties. Much to his disappointment as a patriotic Englishman, some of these were taken up abroad, as the processes were deemed too complicated by British manufacturers.
By the time he was invited to take the chair of chemistry at TCD (1904) after the retirement of Emerson Reynolds (qv), he was an international authority on distillation. However, the administration of a large department stymied his research activities, and his publication output declined. During his career he published over one hundred papers, which are listed after his Royal Society obituary (1938). His first book, Fractional distillation, was published in 1903. While at TCD he wrote Stochiometry (1908) and contributed articles on sublimation, distillation, and thermometers to Thorpe's dictionary of applied chemistry (1921, 1926, 1927). Distillation principles and processes (1922) was written in collaboration with industrial specialists and included many of the industrial applications of his researches on fractional distillation.
He was an active member of many institutions and associations: FRS (1893), founder fellow of the Institute of Physics, fellow of the Institute of Chemistry (1888), president of the chemical section of the British Association's meeting (1904), MRIA (1905), vice-president of the Chemical Society (1917–20), and member of the advisory council of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (1920–25). He was also a member of the Irish peat enquiry committee (1917). He received several honours during his lifetime: Sc.D. (Dubl.) (1905) and D.Sc. (Bristol) (1921). For several years he was vice-president of the RIA (1908–11, 1913–15, 1917–19), later becoming president (1921–6), and was one of the few physical chemists in the academy.
He married (1896) Grace Martha Kimmins, sister of his friend Charles W. Kimmins, whom he had met on his first day at Owens College, Manchester. They had twin sons in 1897: Sydney was killed in action at Ypres (1915) and Charles Edgar, after serving in the war as a pilot, went to Oxford and became a headmaster. On his retirement (1928) he and his wife moved from 13 Clyde Road, Dublin, to Clifton, Bristol, after a winter in the south of France. He renewed his old friendships and continued his gardening, sketching and golfing interests. He died in Bristol after a short illness on 9 April 1937 in his 80th year.