Charles Tennant

Charles Tennant, (1768- 1838) was one of the first pioneers of the chemical industry and was instrumental in encouraging the growth of the textile industry.

Tennant came from modest beginnings as an apprentice weaver and went on to patent various methods of making bleaches. Eventually he set up his own company in Paisley, Scotland, to produce them for the burgeoning textile industry. He developed a highly successful dry bleaching powder from chlorine and slaked lime and built a second factory in Glasgow to produce it which was the largest chemical works in the world at that time.

Charles Tennant was a true entrepreneur who lay the foundations for the diverse and complex map of today's science-based industries. Tennant was a remarkable man whose skills lay not only in chemistry and chemical engineering but also in economics and business. This ability to capitalise on his scientific inquiries brought him enormous personal success and left an enduring legacy for science entrepreneurs in Scotland and far beyond.

Tennant began his career apprenticed as a weaver, hence Robert Burns' reference to him as 'wabster Charlie', but was quick to see the potential of applying science for commercial benefit. He won financial control of his first industrial works at the age of 32. Thirty five years later his St Rollox Works in Glasgow, occupying ten acres and with the tallest chimney (Tennant's Stalk), was the most important chemical works in the world.

Image: National Portrait Gallery by John George Murray, after Andrew Geddes mezzotint, (1830s) (NPG D40516), (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

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