William Gregory (chemist)

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William Gregory (chemist)
William Gregory (1803-1858).jpg
Born 25 December 1803
Died 24 April 1858
Nationality Scottish
Fields chemistry
Known for mesmerism

William Gregory (25 December 1803 – 24 April 1858) was a Scottish physician and chemist. He studied under and translated some of the works of Liebig, the German chemist. Gregory also had interests in mesmerism and phrenology.[1]


He was the fourth son of James Gregory, and was born at Edinburgh. After a medical education he graduated at Edinburgh in 1828, and moved into chemistry. In 1831 he introduced a process for making the "muriate of morphia", which came into general use.[2] "Gregory's salt" in terms of modern chemistry was a mixture of morphine hydrochloride and codeine hydrochloride, obtained from opium by use of calcium chloride.[3]

After studying for some time on the continent he established himself as an extra-academical lecturer on chemistry at Edinburgh. He lectured on chemistry at the Andersonian University, Glasgow, and then at the Dublin Medical School, and in 1839 was appointed professor of medicine and chemistry in King's College, Aberdeen. In 1844 he was elected to the chair of chemistry at Edinburgh in succession to his old teacher Thomas Charles Hope. He was a successful expository lecturer, but in his later years suffered much from a disabling disease.[2]

Gregory was interested in animal magnetism and mesmerism. He died on 24 April 1858, leaving a widow and one son.[2]


Gregory was a pupil of Justus Liebig at Giessen, and translated and edited several of his works. His own chemical works gave prominence to organic chemistry. A list of forty chemical papers by him was given in the Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers. Restricted to a sedentary life, he wrote a number of papers on diatoms. His books were:[2]

  • Outlines of Chemistry, 1845; 2nd edition, 1847; divided subsequently into two volumes, The Handbook of Inorganic and Organic Chemistry respectively, 1853; the latter was issued in Germany, edited by Theodor Gerding, Brunswick, 1854.
  • Letters to a Candid Inquirer on Animal Magnetism, 1851.

Besides editing English editions of Liebig's Animal Chemistry, Chemistry in its Applications to Agriculture and Physiology, Familiar Letters on Chemistry, Instructions for Chemical Analysis of Organic Bodies, Agricultural Chemistry, Chemistry of Food, and Researches on the Motion of the Juices in the Animal Body, Gregory translated and edited Karl Reichenbach's Researches on Magnetism, Electricity, Heat, &c., in their relation to Vital Force, 1850. He also, with Liebig, edited Edward Turner's Elements of Chemistry.[2]


  1. ^ Kaufman, Matthew H. (August 2008). "William Gregory (1803–58): Professor of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh and enthusiast for phrenology and mesmerism". Journal of Medical Biography (England) 16 (3): 128–33. doi:10.1258/jmb.2007.007009. ISSN 0967-7720. PMID 18653829. 
  2. ^ a b c d e  "Gregory, William (1803–1858)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  3. ^ André Barbier, The Extraction of Opium Alkaloids (1950).

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 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Gregory, William (1803–1858)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.