William Gregory (chemist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
William Gregory (chemist)
William Gregory (1803-1858).jpg
Born 25 December 1803
Died 24 April 1858
Nationality Scottish
Fields chemistry
Known for mesmerism

Prof William Gregory FRCPE FRSE FCS (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 Isabella MacLeod, and was born at Edinburgh.

After a medical education he graduated at Edinburgh in 1828, and moved into chemistry, studying at Geissen University.[2] In 1831 he introduced a process for making the "muriate of morphia", which came into general use.[3] "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.[4]

In the 1830s he is recorded as living in his father's large townhouse with his brothers at 10 Ainslie Place on the Moray Estate in the western New Town of Edinburgh.[5]

In 1832 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and served as their Secretary from 1844 to 1858.[6]

After studying for some time on the continent he established himself as an extra-academical lecturer on chemistry at Edinburgh. He was appointed Professor of 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.[3]

Gregory was interested in animal magnetism and mesmerism.

He died at his home on Princes Street on 24 April 1858, leaving a widow and one son.[3] He is buried in Canongate Kirkyard on the Royal Mile.[7]


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:[3]

  • 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.[3]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]


 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.