Thomas Young Biography

Thomas Young was a British polymath and physician. Young has made notable scientific contributions in the areas of vision, light, solid mechanics, energy, physiology, language, musical harmony, and Egyptology. He made many original and enjoyable innovations in the interpretation of Egyptian hieroglyphs (especially Rosetta Stone) before expanding on his work by Jean-Francois Champollion. William Herschel, Hermann von Helmholtz, James Clerk Maxwell and Albert Einstein used to mention them. Young is described as “The Last Man Who Knew Everything”.

Thomas Young’s Early Life


Thomas Young was from a Quaker family in Milverton, Somerset, where he was born in 1773, the eldest of ten children in his family. Young had learned Greek and Latin at the age of fourteen, and was well acquainted with French, Italian, Hebrew, German, Aramaic, Syria, Samaritan, Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Amharic.


Young began studying medicine at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London in 1792, and then in 1794 he went to the University of Edinburgh Medical School, from where Göttingen, Germany, in Lower Saxony Göttingen, a year later. He received his medical degree from the university.

In 1797 he attended Emmanuel College, Cambridge. The same year he inherited the property of his grandfather, Richard Brocklesby, which made him financially independent. Thus in 1799 he established himself as a physician at 48 Welbeck Street, London (now recorded with a blue plaque). Thomas Young published several of his first academic articles anonymously to protect his reputation as a physician.


In 1801 Thomas Young was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy (mainly Physics) at the Royal Institution. Within two years, he gave 91 lectures, (his lectures were published in 1807 in the course of lectures on natural philosophy, in which many theories of later theories were hidden.)

In 1802 he was also appointed as a Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society, of which he was elected as a fellow in 1794, but resigned his professorship in 1803, fearing to interfere with his medical practice.

In 1811 Thomas Young became a physician at St George’s Hospital, and in 1814 he served on a committee appointed to consider the dangers involved in the general introduction of gas to lighting in London. In 1816 he also became the secretary of a commission charged with ascertaining the exact length of the second pendulum (a pendulum whose duration is exactly 2 seconds), and in 1818 he became secretary of the Longitude and Superintendent Board of HM’s Nautical Almanac office.

Thomas Young was elected a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1822. In 1827, he was elected one of the eight foreign collaborators of the French Academy of Sciences. In 1828 he was also elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Research by Thomas Young

Wave theory of light

Young’s modulus

Vision and colour theory

Young–Laplace equation

Young’s equation and Young–Dupre equation

Other Works

The medicine


Egyptian hieroglyphs



Thomas Young died on 10 May 1829 in London. He is buried in the cemetery of St. Giles Church in Farnborough, Kent, England.

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