Crookes made a career of being a meteorologist and fierce lecturer for multiple studies and courses. Crookes worked in chemistry and physics. His experiments were notable for the originality of their design. He executed them skillfully. His interests, ranging over pure and applied science, economic and practical problems, and psychiatric research, made him a well-known personality. He received many public and academic honours. Crookes's life was one of unbroken scientific activity.
William Crookes (later Sir William Crookes) was born in London, the eldest of 16 siblings. His father, Joseph Crookes, was a tailor of north-country origin, at that time living with his second wife, Mary Scott Lewis Rutherford Johnson.
From 1850 to 1854 he filled the position of assistant in the college, and soon embarked upon original work. It wasn't in organic chemistry which the focus of his teacher, August Wilhelm von Hofmann, might have been expected to lead him towards, but into new compounds of selenium. These were the subject of his first published papers, 1851. He worked with Manuel Johnson at the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford in 1854, where he adapted the recent innovation of wax paper photography to machines built by Francis Ronalds to continuously record meteorological parameters. In 1855 he was appointed lecturer in chemistry at the Chester Diocesan Training College.
In 1856 he married Ellen, daughter of William Humphrey of Darlington. They had three sons and a daughter. Married and living in London, he was devoted mainly to independent work. In 1859, he founded the Chemical News, a science magazine which he edited for many years and conducted on much less formal lines than was usual for the journals of scientific societies.
In 1861, Crookes discovered a previously unknown element with a bright green emission line in its spectrum and named the element thallium, from the Greek thallos, a green shoot. Crookes wrote a standard treatise on Select Methods in Chemical Analysis in 1871. Crookes was effective in experimentation. The method of spectral analysis, introduced by Bunsen and Kirchhoff, was received by Crookes with great enthusiasm and to great effect. His first important discovery was that of the element thallium, announced in 1861, and made with the help of spectroscopy. By this work his reputation became firmly established, and he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1863.