Sturgeon joined the army in 1802 and taught himself mathematics and physics. In 1824 he became Lecturer in Science and Philosophy at the East India Company's Military Seminary at Addiscombe, Surrey, and in the following year he exhibited his first electromagnet. He displayed its power by lifting nine pounds with a seven-ounce piece of iron wrapped with wire through which a current from a single battery was sent.
In 1840 he became superintendent of the Royal Victoria Gallery of Practical Science in Manchester. He formed a close social circle with John Davies, one of the Gallery's promoters, and Davies's student James Prescott Joule, a circle that eventually extended to include Edward William Binney and the surgeon John Leigh. The Gallery closed in 1842, and he earned a living by lecturing and demonstrating.
In 1843 he started the monthly journal, The Annals of Philosophical Discovery and Monthly Reporter of the Progress of Practical Science; issue 1 of volume 1 is dated July 1843. Each month's issue contains a mixture of original "long" papers (over 5 pages long), republished papers from foreign journals (translated where necessary) and shorter articles. However, the journal did not prove successful, and ceased publication at the end of volume 1, in December 1843. This single volume is archived at Internet.org.
Death and burial
Sturgeon died in Prestwich in Greater Manchester on 4 December 1850. He is buried there, in the churchyard of the St Mary the Virgin: he is identified on his grave slab as "William Sturgeon – The Electrician".
- Thompson, Sylvanus P. (1891). Lectures on the Electromagnet. New York: W. J. Johnson Co. pp. 17–19.
- Gee 2004.
- Harrison, W. J.; Morus, Frank Iwan Rhys (revised) (2004). "Gassiot, John Peter (1797–1877)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/10439. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Kargon 1977, pp. 38-40.
- The Annals of Philosophical Discovery and Monthly Reporter of the Progress of Practical Science, Volume 1, (1843). https://archive.org/details/annalsofphilosop1843stur
- Gee, William; James, Frank A. J. L. (revised) (2004). "Sturgeon, William (1783–1850)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/26748. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Kargon, R. H. (1977). Science in Victorian Manchester: enterprise and expertise. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-1969-5.
- Vibart, H. M. (1894). Addiscombe: its heroes and men of note. Westminster: Archibald Constable. pp. 77–80.