The Hanbury Memorial Medal – open to scientists of all nations

By Karen Horn, RPS Librarian

Daniel Hanbury, renowned British pharmacologist and botanist, died of typhoid fever on 24 March 1875.  He was 49 years old.  He is buried in Wandsworth, in the Society of Friends’ burial ground.

Shortly after Daniel Hanbury’s death, his friends and colleagues resolved to honour a life dedicated to science by awarding a medal in his memory –  for ‘high excellence in the prosecution or promotion of original research in the Natural History and Chemistry of Drugs.’

An international medal to commemorate Daniel Hanbury:

From the outset, the Society decided to award it to ‘investigators in any part of the world,’ for as Professor Dragendorff of Dorpat said: “Our Science is confined to no single nationality, and […]  consequently he who labours for the advancement of pharmaceutical science acquires an international importance.’

In the early years, the Hanbury Medal was presented more frequently to international researchers, predominantly those from other European countries.  Daniel Hanbury’s collaborator on the Pharmacographia, Professor Flückiger, was its first recipient in 1881.  Looking at a list of names including Daniel’s friend and associate Dr De Vrij, as well as Dragendorff,  Ladenburg, Schmidt and Léger, I am reminded just how crucial it is to safeguard collaborations, forged over decades, with scientists of all nations.

Women winners?

In 1975, the Pharmaceutical Journal included an article to mark the centenary of Daniel Hanbury’s death; its author commented that ‘to date no woman had been chosen as a Hanbury medallist.’ Yet, there were women at that time who were at the forefront of drug discovery and development, such as Dr Asima Chatterjee  and Gertrude Elion, and, of course, there have been many others since.

The future of the Hanbury Memorial Medal …
For Daniel Hanbury, science broke down all national barriers.

We need to celebrate the vision of the medal’s founders, whose values reflected Daniel’s own.  Thanks to them, the RPS has a diverse pool of scientists from which to choose the next recipient of the Hanbury Memorial Medal, due to be awarded again in 2019.

Whoever that medallist might be, we are here waiting to show you the highlights from the fascinating book collection of the man whose life this prestigious medal commemorates.

Contact the RPS Library to visit and see its amazing collection.

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