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British Industrial History

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Thomas Morson and Son

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of 47 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1. (1922)

of Summerfield Works, Ponder's End, Middlesex.

Thomas Morson, (1825–1908), pharmaceutical manufacturer, born in London, was the son of Thomas Newborn Robert Morson (1800–1874), pharmaceutical manufacturer, born in Stratford-le-Bow, London.

Thomas Morson was educated at University College School. He served his apprenticeship with an apothecary in the Fleet Market and studied alkaloid chemistry in Paris before joining his father's business.

When the elder Morson returned to London, he established himself as a retail pharmacist in Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, and soon acquired a leading position in the import and supply of quinine and morphia.

By 1837 demand for his range of products — which included perfumes and dyes as well as pharmaceuticals and their ingredients — was growing, and, like other pharmacists, he found that the back of the shop was inadequate for manufacturing; he set up a separate factory in Hornsey Road.

1857 He married the daughter of a Boulogne pharmacist, whose family name was Dagomet. There were two sons of the marriage, Thomas Pierre and Albert Robert.

1869 The factory was moved further out of London, to the Summerfields Works, Ponder's End, in Middlesex. The elder Morson was a founder member of the Chemical and Pharmaceutical societies; he was a member of the Pharmaceutical Society's council, serving as vice-president and president.

1874 When his father died, Morson took over the running of the business. He employed the chemist Robert Taubman to run the laboratory the Morsons had by then established, and from 1891 until his death in 1905 Taubman was also a partner in the business.

The Morsons enjoyed a high reputation and a number of leading medical scientists, including Joseph Lister (1827–1912), consulted the firm. This led to the development and marketing of Lister's cyanide and other named products, but, despite its standing, the Morson business and laboratory, like others in Britain at that time, did not engage in speculative research and development leading to innovation of the kind that was taking place in the industry in Germany in the 1890s and the first decade of the twentieth century.

1900 The pharmacy in Southampton Row was closed and new offices and warehouses were opened in Elm Street, Gray's Inn Road.

Morson was essentially a private rather than a public person, with artistic interests and friends, and he built up a collection of contemporary paintings. Like his father his interest in science reached beyond pharmacy and he was a member of the Geological and Zoological societies.

1908 He died at his home, 30 Elsworthy Road, Primrose Hill, London, on 5 February.

1915 The business was inherited by his sons who converted it in 1915 into a private limited company. It was later acquired by the American pharmaceutical company, Mercke, Sharp, and Dohme.

1922 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Bismuth Salts, Iodine Preparations, Glycerophosphates, Creosote Beechwood B. P.; Chloroform, Ether, Hypophosphites, Acid Phosphoric Pure, A. R. Laboratory chemicals, Alkaloids. (Stand No. A.13) [1]

1929 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Fine Chemicals for use in Medicine, Photography, Laboratory, Technical Purposes, Face Powders and Creams. Specialists in the manufacture of Bismuth Salts, Creosote, Iodine Preparations, Osmo Kaolin. (Stand No. K.114) [2]


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