Daniel Hanbury: family, the RPS and beyond

By Karen Horn, RPS Librarian

(with painting of Daniel Hanbury)

Daniel Hanbury’s family connections to the RPS extend back to the Society’s inception.  His father, Daniel Bell Hanbury, and uncle, Cornelius Hanbury, were both founder members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain in 1841.  They were nephews by marriage of William Allen, the Society’s first president and, like other founder members, they were Quakers.

The Hanbury brothers and William Allen had further ties as business partners, along with John Thomas Barry, in the long-established pharmaceutical firm Allen, Hanburys and Barry – later Allen and Hanburys.

What of Daniel Hanbury himself?

Daniel began his apprenticeship in the family business in 1841.  In 1842, he began part-time study at the Pharmaceutical Society’s newly opened School of Pharmacy where he attended lectures in Chemistry, Botany, Pharmacy and Materia Medica, his particular interest being Materia Medica under Professor Jonathan Pereira. He also studied in the practical chemistry laboratory from 1844.

At twenty-five, Daniel became a member of the Scientific Committee ‘for the promotion of pharmacological knowledge,’ probably in the capacity of researcher.  He also started contributing papers on pharmacognosy to the Pharmaceutical Journal.  These articles were later brought together in Science Papers, chiefly Pharmacological and Botanical. 

In December 1856, Daniel was registered as a Pharmaceutical Chemist and elected a member of the Pharmaceutical Society (certificate, left).  That same year, he was made a partner in the family business.  In 1860, he was appointed one of the Society’s examiners, a position he held for twelve years.

Beyond the RPS – International reach:

Daniel Hanbury travelled extensively throughout Europe and Asia to advance his research.  His collaboration with Professor Flückiger of Bern resulted in the publication of their Pharmacographia.

In the RPS’ archives can be found letters to Daniel from the likes of Theodor Peckolt, a botanist, pharmacist and chemist, who worked for some time in Brazil, and Nicolas J-B. G. Guibourt, Professor at the School of Pharmacy in Paris.  The archives also contain certificates showing Daniel’s membership of pharmaceutical societies and associations all over the world.


Beyond the RPS – Accolades abound:

Daniel was elected Fellow of the Linnaen Society in 1855, followed by Fellow of the Chemical Society, 1858, Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society, 1867, Fellow of the Royal Society, 1867  and was President of the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Norwich, 1868, and in Exeter, 1869.

He thought himself undeserving of Royal Society Fellowship, a rather harsh self-assessment for someone who had devoted his entire life to his passion: the study of materia medica.  Daniel Hanbury’s interest had always been science over business.

 On Science … but let the man speak for himself …

“All Science is interesting for us, since almost every scientific discovery may sooner or later, directly or indirectly, yield some result profitable to pharmacy.” Daniel Hanbury, British Pharmaceutical Conference, Exeter, 1869.

Daniel Hanbury’s comments on science, made nearly 150 years ago, do not surprise me.  He was only following in the footsteps of Jacob Bell and other founder members of the Society, who had recognised the importance of scientific knowledge to pharmacy.

They had looked outwards and seen the necessity of emulating countries like France and Germany who already had Schools and Institutes of Pharmacy.  And so a School of Pharmacy was born here too, in the Society’s headquarters in Bloomsbury Square.

As a result, pharmacy in this country became the highly-qualified profession it is today, with science underpinning practice, then as now.

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

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