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Thomas Young

In the chapel of St Andrew in Westminster Abbey is a white marble tablet, with a profile medallion, to the memory of Thomas Young, physician, physicist, writer and Coptic scholar. The sculptor was Sir Francis Chantrey and it was erected in 1834. The inscription reads:

Sacred to the memory of Thomas Young M.D. Fellow and Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society Member of the National Institute of France. A man alike eminent in almost every department of human learning. Who, equally distinguished in the most abstruse investigations of letters and of science, first established the undulatory theory of light and first penetrated the obscurity which had veiled for ages the hieroglyphicks of Egypt. Endeared to his friends by his domestic virtues, honoured by the World for his unrivalled acquirements, he died in the hopes of the Resurrection of the just. Born at Milverton in Somersetshire June 13th 1773, died in Park Square London May 10th 1829, in the 56th year of his age.

Thomas was one of ten children of Thomas Young and his wife Sarah (Davis). Both were members of the Society of Friends and on leaving school Thomas became a tutor to Hudson Gurney, grandson of a Quaker banker. Gurney was later to write the above epitaph and pay the fees for the erection of the memorial. Thomas studied to become a doctor and on 14th June 1804 married Eliza Maxwell but they had no children. Among his many achievements he has perpetuated his name in the study of mechanics in 'Young’s modulus' of elasticity. He discovered astigmatism and worked on the wave-theory of light. Ill health prevented him from completing his Egyptian dictionary, having identified around two hundred hieroglyphics. He died at his house in London and was buried in the family vault at Farnborough in Kent.

Further Reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004


13th June 1773


10th May 1829


Scientist; physician; doctor; physicist


Chapel of St Andrew

Memorial Type


Thomas Young
Thomas Young memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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You are surrounded by history at the Abbey, not like a museum where it’s just displayed, but here you are standing where history has happened.


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