The BAAS first went to Bradford in 1873 for its 43rd meeting on September 17. The President was Prof. Alexander W. Williamson, head of Chemistry at UCL. Williamson stepped in at the last minute to replace Dr James Joule whose health was poor.
There were two evening lectures: from Prof. W. C. Williamson on ‘Coal and Coal Plants’ (Friday 19 September), and Prof. Clerk Maxwell on ‘Molecules’ (Monday 22 September). Two Soirees took place: at St. George’s Hall on Thursday 18 and the Mechanics’ Institute on Tuesday 23.
An annual Lecture to the Operative Classes had been introduced in 1867, and the lecturer for 1873 was C.W. Siemens on ‘Fuel’, delivered Saturday 20 September.
There were 5 types of ticket for entry to sessions: Member, Associate, Lady (started in 1843), Reporter, and Special. The Bradford meeting was attended by 575 Members, 796 Associates, 601 Ladies, and 11 Foreigners. The total received from tickets was £2102.
A total of £1545 was awarded in grants, ranging from £150 to Sir Charles Lyell for ‘Kent’s Cavern Exploration’, to £25 to Lord Houghton for ‘Economic Effects of Trades Unions’, and £10 to Dr Gladstone for ‘Chemical Constitution and Optical Properties of Essential Oils’.
The Times reported Dr. Gladstone’s welcome to the President:
He remarked that Professor Williamson had gained great eminence as a chymist, and that he took a prominent place among our philosophers. But, besides that, it seemed particularly appropriate that Professor Williamson should be elected President in Bradford, because this town and the surrounding towns of Halifax and other places in the neighbourhood depended so much upon the chymical arts. He could not imagine that there was any man more fitted to inspire an interest in chymistry in this neighbourhood than Professor Williamson, and it was also well known that he paid a good deal of attention to the mechanical arts.
The Times also printed Williamson’s Presidential Address (Wednesday 17 September), noting that he gave first ‘a most interesting and perspicuous account of the present state of Chymical Science in the terms of the Atomic Theory’, second ‘a plan for the re-organization of all our Schools, Colleges and Universities, in order to the prosecution of chymical and other scientific studies and inquiries’. The journalist then had his own bit of fun with the latest chemical theory:
The third “atom”, which gives a sort of “molecular” consistency to an otherwise disjointed composition, is an eloquent eulogy of Physical Science, especially Chymistry, for the right moral feelings and habits it naturally and directly engenders. It teaches, and, indeed, compels, inquiry, lore of truth, patience, submission to results, modesty, surrender of prejudice, the careful discrimination between what merely seems and what really is, close attention, memory, clear appreciation of terms, industry, self-denial, concentration of faculties, and directness of aim. We will confess that some of the President’s expressions left the momentary misgiving that he thought Physical Science all-sufficient, not only for educational purposes, but for all the objects of human existence; but if he has seen visions in the night he has corrected them in the morning, and we perceive that, if challenged, he might fall back on saving clauses.