Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parkes, Samuel

PARKER, SAMUEL (1761–1825), chemist, was born at Stourbridge, Worcestershire, on 26 May 1761. He was the eldest son of Samuel Parkes (d. 1 April 1811, aged 76), a grocer, by his first wife, Hannah, daughter of William Mence of Stourbridge. He was at a dame's school in Stourbridge with Sarah Kemble, afterwards Mrs. Siddons, and in 1771 went to a boarding-school at Market Harborough, Leicestershire, under Stephen Addington, D.D. [q. v.] He began life in his father's business. In 1790 he was one of the founders, and for some years president, of a public library at Stourbridge. About 1793 he removed to Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, and began soap-boiling, a business at which his great-grandfather had made money. Being a zealous unitarian, he conducted public worship in his own house at Stoke. In 1803 he settled in Goswell Street, London, as a manufacturing chemist. The first editions of his manuals of chemistry were issued between 1806 and 1815, and brought him much repute and honours from learned societies. The ‘Chemical Catechism’ was written for the education of his daughter, and lent in manuscript to others. When translated into Russian, the Emperor of Russia sent him a valuable ring. In 1817 the Highland Society voted him a silver inkstand for an essay on kelp and barilla. He joined Sir Thomas Bernard [q. v.] in agitating (1817) against the salt duties (repealed 1825), and received a silver cup from the Horticultural Society of Scotland for a paper on the uses of salt in gardening. In 1820 he was prominent, as a chemical expert, in a notable case between Messrs. Severn, King, & Co. and the insurance offices. His tastes were liberal; he was a good numismatist, and made a fine collection of Greek and Roman coins; he was a collector also of prints and autographs, and brought together a unique set of the works of Joseph Priestley [q. v.] During a visit to Edinburgh, in June 1825, he was attacked by a painful disorder, which proved fatal. He died at his residence in Mecklenburg Square, London, on 23 Dec. 1825, and was buried in the graveyard of the New Gravel Pit Chapel, Hackney. His funeral sermon was preached by William Johnson Fox [q. v.] His portrait, from a drawing by Wivell, engraved by A. W. Warren, is prefixed to the twelfth and thirteenth editions of the ‘Chemical Catechism.’ He was a member of twenty-one learned societies, English and foreign. He married, on 23 Sept. 1794, Sarah (b. 25 Feb. 1766; d. 14 Dec. 1813), eldest daughter of Samuel Twamley of Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. His only child, Sarah Mayo (b. 28 May 1797; d. 30 July 1887), was married, on 25 May 1824, to Joseph Wainwright Hodgetts, who lost his life at an explosion in chemical works in Manchester on 14 Feb. 1851.

He published:

  1. ‘A Chemical Catechism,’ &c., 1806, 8vo; 12th edit. 1826, 8vo, edited, with memoir, by J. W. Hodgetts; 13th edit. 1834, 8vo, revised by Edward William Brayley the younger [q. v.] There is a pirated edition, with title ‘A Grammar of Chemistry,’ &c., 1809, 12mo, bearing the name of David Blair. The sale was stopped by an injunction in chancery. There are many American editions distinct from the above; and it has been translated into French, German, Spanish, and Russian.
  2. ‘Rudiments of Chemistry,’ &c., 1809, 18mo, an abridgment of No. 1; 4th edit. 1825, 18mo.
  3. ‘Chemical Essays,’ &c., 1815, 12mo, 5 vols.; 3rd edit. 1830, 8vo, edited by Hodgetts.
  4. ‘Thoughts on the Laws relating to Salt,’ &c., 1817, 8vo.
  5. ‘Letter to Farmers and Graziers on the Use of Salt in Agriculture,’ &c., 1819, 8vo.

He wrote papers ‘On Nitric Acid’ (‘Philosophical Magazine,’ 1815), ‘Reply to Dr. Henry … respecting … Bleaching by Oxymuriatic Acid’ (Thomson's ‘Annals of Philosophy,’ 1816), and ‘On the Analysis of some Roman Coins’ (‘Journal of Science,’ 1826).

[Monthly Repository, 1811 pp. 431 sq., 1814 pp. 68 sq., 1825 p. 752, 1826 pp. 120 sq., 703 sq.; Biogr. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816, pp. 262, 444; Hodgetts's Advertisement in Chemical Catechism, 1826; manuscript pedigrees of Twamley and Hodgetts families.]

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