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Theophilus Redwood and the Redwood Building

Redwood Building frontage

In the late 1970s this University adopted the practice of naming its satellite buildings after families of Wales of prominence in Science, Arts or Industry. The premises, then part of the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology (UWIST), which then housed the Welsh School of Pharmacy and the Departments of Chemistry and Applied Biology, was named the “Redwood Building” in honour of the Redwood family of Orchard House at Boverton, near Llantwit Major.


Redwood Building Sign

Leading members of this family included Theophilus Redwood (1806-1892), one of the founding fathers of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, and his son Sir (Thomas) Boverton Redwood Bart., FRS (1846-1919) who was a consulting chemist and engineer with petroleum as the main basis of his lifework. There were also the medical members of Theophilus’s brother, Lewis Redwood and son, Thomas Redwood after whom Rhymney’s Redwood Memorial Hospital was named, while in the consulting practice of B & R Redwood, Sir Boverton Redwood was partnered by his brother, Robert Redwood.

As Theophilus Redwood (1806-1892) is especially linked to the interests of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, formerly known as the Welsh School of Pharmacy, his biographical details are now given.

Theophilus Redwood

Theophilus Redwood - Reproduced with kind permission of the Museum of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. A framed copy of this photograph hangs at the bottom of the main staircase in the building, thanks to the generosity of Professor and Mrs Paul Nicholls.

Redwood, Theophilus 1806 - 1892

Theophilus Redwood, who was to become one of the founding fathers of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and the first Professor of Pharmacy in the Society's own school of pharmacy, was born on the 9th of April in 1806 at Boverton, Glamorganshire (now in the Vale of Glamorgan). In 1820 he was apprenticed to his brother-in-law, Charles Vachell, a surgeon-apothecary in Cardiff. Vachell had married Redwood's eldest half-sister Margaret in 1811. Three years later, through quaker connections, Redwood's father was able to send his son to become an assistant in the pharmacy of John Bell in Oxford Street, London. It was here that he met and started a life-long friendship with John Bell's eldest surviving son, Jacob Bell. Redwood left John Bell's in 1830 to establish his own dispensing business in Crawford Street, London, but maintained close contact with Jacob, with whom he attended lectures at the Royal Institution and Kings College.

In 1841, Jacob Bell with other leading chemists and druggists of the day, including Redwood and William Allen, formed the Pharmaceutical Society at a meeting in the Crown and Anchor Tavern on 15th April. In essence, this Society was a response to the hostility of the apothecaries, who sought to severely restrict the rights of chemists and druggists. It was designed both to protect the interests of the chemists and druggists and also to improve their training and status. It was to this second function that Redwood was to play a crucial part. Later in 1841, Jacob Bell started to edit and publish his own pharmacy journal called from the second issue Pharmaceutical Transactions. Redwood immediately became the sub-editor.

A year later the fledgling Pharmaceutical Society agreed to set up its own school of pharmacy (the first in Britain), with Theophilius Redwood as the first Professor of Pharmacy. There were three other professors: in botany, materia medica and chemistry. Redwood was also the first librarian and two years later the first curator of the Society's museum. He also established practical instruction in chemistry in the Society's premises at 17 Bloomsbury Square in 1844. This was unique in Britain at the time. In 1846, George Fownes, the first professor of chemistry was forced to retire due to ill health. Redwood took on the joint professorship of chemistry and pharmacy, which he held until his retirement in 1885 at the age of 79.

Joseph Ince has written "At the commencement of the Society's career, Redwood was a tower of strength - the faithful coadjutor of Jacob Bell; sub-editor of the Journal; a constant contributor of papers bearing on practical pharmacy; leader of the forlorn hope of the evening meetings and chief speaker at those functions; and, lastly, the first to initiate a course of teaching directly applied to the wants of the community and of chemists and druggists."

Jacob Bell died in 1859 and the Society took over the proprietorship of the journal. Redwood was asked to be joint editor with Dr Robert Bentley. Soon thereafter it was re-named the Pharmaceutical Journal . Redwood reworked and updated a number of existing texts specifically for students. These included: Gray's Supplement to the Pharmacopoeia in 1847, with two further editions by Redwood; an English translation with considerable additions of Francis Mohr's German Practical Pharmacy in 1849. In 1854 he was appointed secretary of the committee set up by the Royal College of Physicians to revise the London Pharmacopoeia, and subsequently the first edition of the British Pharmacopoeia in 1864. He was editor of the next three editions published in 1867, 1874 and 1885.

Theophilius Redwood was never President of the Pharmaceutical Society, probably because he was ineligible as an employee of the Society. He was, however, President of the British Pharmaceutical Conferences in Glasgow and Plymouth, 1876 and 77. He was also President of the International Pharmaceutical conference held in London in 1881.

Several other learned bodies of the victorian era also benefited from Redwood's zeal and energy. He was secretary of the Cavendish Society from its inception in 1846, joint secretary of the Chemical Society from 1852 to 1865. He became one of the first public analysts after the Food and Drugs Act 1875 established such posts. When the Society of Public Analysts was established the year previously, he was elected its first President. He was re-elected two years later, but resigned in office along with a Vice-President and the Treasurer in a dispute over an article in that society's journal the Analyst.

After his retirement in 1885, he received the title of Emeritus Professor by unanimous vote of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society. He moved back to the family home in Boverton, which he had inherited, but still continued to lecture. His last public appearance was appropriately at the Pharmaceutical Conference in Cardiff in 1891, as he himself remarked, a very different Cardiff from the one he had left in 1823. He died at home on 5th March 1892 and is buried in Llantwit Major churchyard.

As the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences moves towards its first centenary it continues the educational principle followed by Redwood and provides a teaching programme directly applicable to the needs of the community.