Pereira, Jonathan (DNB00)

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PEREIRA, JONATHAN (1804–1853), pharmacologist, was born at Shoreditch, London, on 22 May 1804. His father, an underwriter at Lloyd's, was in straitened circumstances, and Pereira was sent, when about ten years old, to a classical academy in Queen Street, Finsbury. Five years later he was articled to a naval surgeon and apothecary named Latham, then a general practitioner in the City Road. In 1821 he became a pupil at the Aldersgate Street general dispensary, where he studied chemistry, materia medica, and medicine under Dr. Henry Clutterbuck [q. v.], natural philosophy under Dr. George Birkbeck [q. v.], and botany under Dr. William Lambe (1765–1847) [q. v.] In 1822 he entered St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and, qualifying as licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries in March 1823, when under nineteen, was at once appointed apothecary to the dispensary. He then formed a students' class, for whose use he translated the ‘London Pharmacopœia’ of 1824, published ‘A Selection of Prescriptions’ in English and in Latin, and ‘A General Table of Atomic Numbers with an Introduction to the Atomic Theory,’ and drew up a ‘Manual for Medical Students,’ which was afterwards, with his consent, edited by Dr. John Steggall. Having qualified as a surgeon in 1825, he was, next year, appointed lecturer on chemistry at the dispensary, and soon after ceased for some years to publish, devoting much of his time to the collection of materials for his great work on materia medica. In 1828 he became a fellow of the Linnean Society. A powerful man, with an iron constitution, he rose at six in the morning, and for many years worked sixteen hours a day. He took lessons in French and German for the purposes of his work, and, though possessing a very retentive memory, made copious notes on all he read. In 1828 he began to lecture on materia medica at Aldersgate Street, and until about 1841, he delivered two or three lectures every day.

On his marriage, in September 1832, he resigned to his brother the post of apothecary to the dispensary, and began to practise as a surgeon in Aldersgate Street; but in the winter of the same year he was made professor of materia medica in the new medical school which took the place of the Aldersgate Street dispensary; and, in 1833, was chosen to succeed Dr. Gordon as lecturer on chemistry at the London Hospital. His lectures on materia medica were printed in the ‘Medical Gazette’ between 1835 and 1837, translated into German, and republished in India. In 1838 he was elected fellow of the Royal Society. The two parts of his magnum opus, ‘The Elements of Materia Medica,’ first appeared in 1839 and 1840, and in the former year he was made examiner in materia medica to the university of London. He was offered the chair of chemistry and materia medica at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, but declined it on being required to resign all other posts. At this time he was making 1,000l. a year by his lectures, and had so large a class at Aldersgate Street that he built a new theatre for them at a cost of 700l. Nevertheless, in 1840 he resolved to leave London for two years in order to graduate at a Scottish university, but changed his plans to become a candidate for a vacant assistant-physicianship at the London Hospital. Within a fortnight he prepared for and passed the examination for the licentiateship of the College of Physicians—a needful qualification. About the same time he obtained the diploma of M.D. from Erlangen, and was elected to the post he sought. On the foundation of the Pharmaceutical Society in 1842, he gave two lectures at their school of pharmacy in Bloomsbury Square on the elementary composition of foods, which he afterwards amplified into a ‘Treatise on Food and Diet,’ published in 1843. In that year he gave three lectures on polarised light, and, on being chosen the first professor of materia medica of the society, delivered the first complete course in this subject given to pharmaceutical chemists in England. In 1845 he became fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. His practice as a physician increasing, he gradually gave up lecturing, resigning his chair at the London Hospital in 1851 when he became a full physician to the hospital, but continuing to give a winter course at the Pharmaceutical Society until 1852. He died from the results of an accident, on 20 Jan. 1853, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. He had extensive foreign correspondence; always insisted on seeing drugs, if possible, in the condition in which they were imported; examined them both with the microscope and the polariscope; and paid equal attention to their botanical, chemical, and physiological characters. His collection became the property of the Pharmaceutical Society. A medal by Wyon was struck in his memory by the Pharmaceutical Society, and a bust, by McDowall, was executed for the London Hospital. There is also an engraved portrait of him, by D. Pound, in the ‘Pharmaceutical Journal’ for 1852–3 (p. 409).

Besides thirty-five papers, mostly in the ‘Pharmaceutical Journal,’ 1843–52, many unsigned contributions, and a translation of Matteucci's ‘Lectures on the Physical Phenomena of Living Beings,’ which he superintended in 1847, Pereira's works include: 1. ‘A Translation of the Pharmacopœia of 1824,’ 1824, 16mo. 2. ‘A Selection of Prescriptions … for Students …’ 1824, 16mo, which, under the title ‘Selecta e Præscriptis,’ has gone through eighteen editions down to 1890, besides numerous editions in the United States. 3. ‘Manual for Medical Students,’ 1826, 18mo. 4. ‘General Table of Atomic Numbers,’ 1827. 5. ‘The Elements of the Materia Medica,’ 1839–40, 8vo; 2nd edit. under the title of ‘Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics,’ 2 vols. 1842, 8vo; 3rd edit. vol. i. 1849, and vol. ii., edited by A. S. Taylor and G. O. Rees, 1853; 4th edit. 1854–7, and 5th edit., edited by R. Bentley and T. Redwood, 1872; besides several editions in the United States. 6. ‘Tabular View of the History and Literature of the Materia Medica,’ 1840, 8vo. 7. ‘A Treatise on Food and Diet,’ 1843, 8vo. 8. ‘Lectures on Polarised Light,’ 1843, 8vo; 2nd edit. by B. Powell, 1854.

[Pharmaceutical Journal, 1852–3, p. 409; Gent. Mag. 1853, i. 320–2; Allibone's Dict. p. 1562; Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers, iv. 825–6; Proceedings of the Linnean Society, ii. 237.]

G. S. B.