Calvert, Frederick Crace (DNB00)

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CALVERT, FREDERICK CRACE (1819–1873), chemist, was born in London on 14 Nov. 1819, and was the son of a Colonel Calvert. At the age of sixteen he left London for France, where he remained till 1846. One result of this long stay abroad was that till the end of his life he spoke English with a French accent, and was, in consequence, frequently taken for a foreigner. After studying at Rouen under Gerardin, and in Paris at the Sorbonne, the Collège de France, and the École de Médecine, he held for a short time the post of manager of Messrs. Robiquet & Pelletier's chemical works, but this post he vacated on being appointed assistant to the eminent chemist, Chevreul. It was under Chevreul (his old master as he would always call him) that Calvert's serious chemical work began, and it was the influence of Chevreul which directed his researches towards those branches of industrial chemistry in which he acquired his reputation. In 1846 he returned to England and was appointed professor of chemistry at the Royal Institution in Manchester, where he had settled in practice as a consulting chemist. He now devoted himself almost entirely to questions of industrial chemistry, tanning, the desulphurisation of coke, the protection of iron ships from rust, the manufacture of chlorate of potash, iron puddling, calico-printing, &c. A few years later he took up the manufacture of coal-tar products, especially of phenic or carbolic acid, which he was the first to manufacture in a pure state in this country. Its use as a disinfectant and for therapeutic purposes is due, it may be said, entirely to him. The manufacture of carbolic acid was commenced by him on a small scale in 1859, and in 1865 he established large works at Manchester for its production. He contributed largely to scientific literature, both English and French; his papers are to be found in the ‘Comptes Rendus,’ the ‘Royal Society's Proceedings,’ the ‘Annales de Chimie,’ the ‘Philosophical Magazine,’ the ‘British Association Reports,’ the ‘Journal of the Society of Arts,’ and elsewhere. A full but not complete list of the papers, and unfortunately without references, is given in the biographical notice prefixed to the second edition of his work on ‘Dyeing and Calico-printing.’ He delivered five courses of ‘Cantor’ lectures at the Society of Arts on applied chemistry. His death was the result of an illness contracted at Vienna, whither he had gone to serve as a juror at the International Exhibition of 1873. He died at Manchester 24 Oct. 1873.

[A life is given in the Soc. of Arts Journal, xxi. (1873) 919; a very full account of Calvert's scientific work is given as an introduction to the second edition of his Dyeing and Calico-printing, Manchester, 1876; short notices appear in Journ. Chem. Soc. xxvii. 1198; Chem. News, xxviii. (1873) 224. For scientific writings see Royal Soc. Cat. Scientific Papers s. v. Crace-Calvert.]

H. T. W.