Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Warington, Robert

WARINGTON, ROBERT (1807–1867), chemist, third son of Thomas Warington, a victualler of ships, was born on 7 Sept. 1807 at Sheerness. After an early childhood spent in Portsmouth, Boulogne, and other places, he entered Merchant Taylors' school in 1818. In November 1822, after a year's trial, he was articled for five years to John Thomas Cooper, a lecturer in the medical schools of Aldersgate Street and Webb Street, and a manufacturer of potassium, sodium, iodine, and other then rare chemical substances. On the opening of the London University (later University College) in 1828, he was chosen by Edward Turner [q. v.], professor of chemistry, as his assistant, in conjunction with William Gregory (1803–1858) [q. v.], afterwards professor of chemistry at Edinburgh. In 1831 he published his first research—on a native sulphide of bismuth. In the same year, on Turner's recommendation, he was appointed chemist to Messrs. Truman, Hanbury, & Buxton, the brewers, with whom he remained till midsummer 1839.

In 1839 Warington, occupying then no official position, and having the necessary leisure, started a movement to found the Chemical Society of London (from 1848 the Chemical Society), the first meeting being convened by him at the Society of Arts on 23 Feb. 1841, and the formal foundation taking place on 30 March following. Warington was elected honorary secretary, and retained the post till 30 March 1851. In acknowledgment of his services he was presented with a service of plate by the fellows of the society on 15 Dec. 1851. On the death of Henry Hennell in 1842 (see Chem. Soc. Proc. 1841–3, p. 52), Warington was appointed chemical operator to the Society of Apothecaries, a position which he held to within a year of his death. In 1846 he took part in the formation of the Cavendish Society, of which he was secretary for three years, and from this time onwards he had many engagements as chemical expert in legal cases. In the year 1844 he began a series of investigations into the adulteration of tea, and gave evidence at the parliamentary inquiry on adulteration in 1855. He was also one of the founders of the Royal College of Chemistry. In 1849 he began investigation on aquaria, and the means necessary to prevent the water therein from becoming stagnant (Quart. Journ. Chem. Soc. iii. 52). He wrote several papers, and in 1857 delivered a lecture at the Royal Institution on this subject; his work was the origin of our modern aquaria. In 1851 he revised the ‘Translation of the Pharmacopœia of the Royal College of Physicians’ into English, left unfinished by Richard Phillips (1778–1851) [q. v.]; he was also engaged in the construction of the ‘British Pharmacopœia’ in 1864, and was joint editor with Boverton Redwood of the second edition in 1867. In 1854 Warington was appointed chemical referee by four of the metropolitan gas companies, and held this post for seven years. In 1864 he was elected fellow of the Royal Society. The Royal Society's catalogue contains a list of forty-seven papers written by Warington alone, and one written in conjunction with William Francis.

Warington died at Budleigh Salterton, Devonshire, on 17 Nov. 1867. He married, in 1835, Elizabeth, daughter of George Jackson, a surgeon, and inventor of improvements in the microscope, and left three children, of whom Robert Warington was professor of rural economy at Oxford from 1894 to 1897.

On 24 Feb. 1891 Mr. Robert Warington the younger presented the Chemical Society with an album containing the documents preserved by Warington in connection with the foundation of the society. It also contains two portraits of Warington.

[Private information from his son, Professor Robert Warington; Obituaries in Proc. Royal Soc. vol. xvi. p. xlix (1868); Journal of the Chemical Soc. new ser. vol. iv. p. xxxi. (1868); Jubilee of the Chemical Soc. 1896, pp. 115, 155, and passim; British Pharmacopœia, 1867; Robinson's Reg. of Merchant Taylors' School, ii. 207.]

P. J. H.