Elizabeth Fulhame

In Phosphate Rocks, ten objects are found beside a corpse during demolition works on Leith docks. The objects hint at the stories of the people who once worked in the factory.

This nutmeg grater belonged to Fraser’s mum who attempted to ensure that her son got a tasty, wholesome meal on night-shift, earning him the ridicule of his crew.

The miniature grater also reminded me of a scientist who used kitchen implements in her experiments.

Elizabeth Fulhame was the brilliant Scottish chemist who first described catalysis.

A catalyst enables a chemical reaction without being consumed by it.

Her snappily titled 1774 book An Essay On Combustion with a View to a New Art of Dying and Painting, wherein the Phlogistic and Antiphlogistic Hypotheses are Proved Erroneous met with surprise and acclaim

She was aware that some might not take her seriously if she published in her own name.

“Some are so ignorant that they grow sullen and silent, and are chilled with horror at the sight of any thing that bears the semblance of learning, in whatever shape it may appear; and should the spectre appear in the shape of woman, the pangs, which they suffer, are truly dismal.”

She didn’t care.

I published this essay in its present imperfect state, in order to prevent the furacious attempts of the prowling plagiary, and the insidious pretender to chymistry, from arrogating to themselves and assuming my invention in plundering silence; for there are those, who if they cannot by chymical, never fail by stratagem and mechanical means, to deprive industry of the fruits and fame of her labours.”

Metal catalysts work best when finely divided.

Phosphate Rocks: A Death in Ten Objects by Fiona Erskine is published by Sandstone Press £8.99 and available to order here.