He attended the Palace School in Enfield. He obtained his PhD at Giesen, in Germany. From 1842 he was chemistry professor at the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, and from 1846 at University College, London. He was also secretary of the Chemical Society of London. In 1844, he published a chemistry textbook. In 1842, he had been awarded the Royal Agricultural Society's prize for his essay Food of Plants. In 1844, he received the first Actonian Prize (of 100 guineas) for his essay Chemistry as Exemplifies the Wisdom and Beneficence of God. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1845, but that same year resigned from his academic positions due to ill health. For his researches in organic chemistry, he was awarded the Royal Society's Royal Medal in 1847. He spent time in Barbados from 1847, in an attempt to treat the pulmonary disease afflicting him, but, on his return to England in 1848, he caught a cold and died at his father's house in Brompton, Kent at the age of 34.