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  Daniel Hanbury (1825–1875), by Charles Henry Jeens, 1876 Daniel Hanbury (1825–1875), by Charles Henry Jeens, 1876
Hanbury, Daniel (1825–1875), pharmacologist, was born on 11 September 1825 at Bedford Lane, Clapham, Surrey, the eldest of the five surviving sons, and one daughter, of Daniel Bell Hanbury (1794–1882), and his wife, Rachel, née Christy (1802/3–1876). His father was a partner in Allen and Hanbury's, an old-established Quaker chemist and druggist, situated at Plough Court in the City of London. Educated at a private school and, from 1833, at Clapham grammar school, Daniel joined the family business in 1841. He followed the family's traditional route into pharmacy, by qualifying as a pharmaceutical chemist at the Pharmaceutical Society in 1857.

Although groomed for a career at Plough Court (he eventually became a partner with his cousin, Cornelius Hanbury, in 1868), Hanbury's career took a different direction. At the Pharmaceutical Society he was influenced by some of the leading pharmacists and botanists of the day, such as Jonathan Pereira, Jacob Bell, and Theophilus Redwood, who awakened his interest in science. Botany became a passion with him, as it was for other Hanburys. (Daniel's younger brother, , laid out a famous botanic garden—La Mortola—at Ventimiglia in Italy.) Daniel became devoted to the study of pharmacognosy, or the knowledge of drugs, which at that time meant a close study of their botanical and geographical origins. While continuing with his work at Plough Court, he began writing to botanists, pharmacists, travellers, government officials, and anyone who could supply him with information and materials. He familiarized himself with classical and contemporary literature, and foreign languages, and, when he could, he travelled abroad extensively to collect specimens. He was particularly interested in Chinese materia medica and the origins of storax.

Hanbury retired from the family business in 1870, after what he described as ‘a great deal of weary but not too disagreeable occupation’ (Tweedale, 64), so that he could concentrate on research. In 1874 he published Pharmacographia, a joint work with Professor F. A. Flückiger, a teacher of pharmacognosy at Bern. The aim of this book was to investigate anew the field of vegetable materia medica in order, as far as was possible, to remove some of the uncertainties which surrounded the subject. Within a few decades, the development of the pharmaceutical industry was to make such researches seem dated. Nevertheless, Hanbury's investigations into the minutiae of plants and drugs were highly influential among his contemporaries, and were collected and published posthumously in a series of over eighty articles in his Science Papers (1876).

Hanbury became a member of several professional societies—the Linnean Society (1855), the Chemical Society (1858), and the Royal Microscopical Society (1867)—and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1867. He was also active as an examiner in the Pharmaceutical Society, which later commemorated his life with the biennial Hanbury memorial medal. However, his lifestyle was that of a shy and reclusive scholar, and he disliked social occasions. This may have reflected his strict Quaker upbringing (though his scholarship seems to have left little time for religious works). He disliked tobacco and alcohol, avoided meat, and never married. His abstemious eating and drinking was said to have contributed to his early death; he died aged forty-nine from typhoid fever at Hollywood, Clapham Common, on 24 March 1875 and was buried at the Quaker burial-ground, Wandsworth, London.

Geoffrey Tweedale


G. Tweedale, At the sign of the plough: 275 years of Allen & Hanburys and the British pharmaceutical industry, 1715–1990 (1990) · A. A. Locke and A. Esdaile, Plough Court: the story of a notable pharmacy, 1715–1927, rev. E. C. Cripps (1927) · D. Chapman-Huston and E. C. Cripps, Through a City archway: the story of Allen and Hanburys, 1715–1954 (1954) · E. J. Shellard, ‘Daniel Hanbury, one of the founders of pharmacognosy’, Pharmaceutical Journal, 214 (10 May 1975) · J. Ince, ‘Memoir’, in D. Hanbury, Science papers (1876)


GlaxoSmithKline, Greenford, Middlesex, letter-books relating to writing of Pharmacographia · NRA, priv. coll., family corresp. · Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London, corresp., notes, and papers · Wellcome L., letter-book |  RBG Kew, letters to Sir William Hooker


C. H. Jeens, stipple, 1876, BM, NPG [see illus.] · oils, Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Wealth at death  

under £14,000: probate, 8 April 1875, CGPLA Eng. & Wales