For his work in developing platinum ore, and the discovery of the elements palladium and rhodium, William Wollaston is a highly regarded chemist of the beginning of the 19th century. He contested the work of his fellow chemist, Anders Gustav Ekeberg. Ekeberg had discovered the element known as tantalum in 1802, but Wollaston suggested that it was an identical compound as niobium, which had already been discovered. This was then actually proven later, in 1846 that Wollaston was in fact inaccurate and that niobium was a different element that deserved its own place in the Periodic Table.
Another area of study that William Wollaston showed a high interest in was in the emerging field of electricity. He completed a series of experiments with the effects of friction on electrical currents, and showed that this electricity that was created was actually identical to the energy that could be created through voltaic piles. This series of experiments led to the development of the electric motor down the road, which was a huge part of the industrial revolution and would not have been possible without this initial surge of interest. Further controversy with a fellow scientist arose, however, when Michael Faraday was the one who actually constructed the first electric motor, without crediting Wollaston's work.
Another invention that William Wollaston was responsible for was the zinc battery. This allowed zinc plates that were a major component of the invention to be raised out of acid, and give a longer-lasting duration to the batter. He combined this work with looking at prisms and optical work, improving the capabilities of the camera obscura that was just being developed at the time. He was able to minimize distortion in the finished image by flattening the lens, and producing a clearer, sharper image than was normally seen in the biconvex lenses of the era.
Finally, William Wollaston also made a number of advances in the medical field which he will be well remembered for. That includes work into diabetes. He tried unsuccessfully to detect the levels of glucose in the blood streams of diabetics, but this was because of his limited access to the modern instruments that current physicians have at their disposal. With such a wide range of subject matter that he experimented with throughout his career, Wollaston was truly a science lover of the highest degree. It was his work in the chemistry field, however, that made him stand apart from peers, for which he was made a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society.