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Morson, Thomas Newborn Robert (1800-1874); Thomas Morson and Son Ltd

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 SA/MOR
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: Morson, Thomas Newborn Robert (1800-1874); Thomas Morson and Son Ltd
Date(s): 1751-1991
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 18 boxes, 3 oversize boxes and 2 oversize items.
Name of creator(s): Morson | Thomas Newborn Robert | 1800-1874 | pharmaceutical entrepreneur
Thomas Morson and Son Ltd
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Thomas Newborn Robert Morson (1800-1874), pharmaceutical entrepreneur, was the founder of the firm of Thomas Morson and Son Ltd, of London, which became a leading manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer of pharmaceutical chemicals and proprietary medicines during the nineteenth century. After an apprenticeship to a surgeon-apothecary in London, Morson spent three years in Paris during 1818-1821, studying under the chemist Louis Antoine Planche. He was a man of wide scientific and cultural interests, with contacts and friendships throughout British and continental science. He was prominent in the foundation of the Pharmaceutical Society, and was elected President in 1848.

Thomas Morson and Son was particularly notable for the manufacture and sale of the new vegetable alkaloids which were identified in the early part of the nineteenth century in France, and was the first British producer, from 1821, of quinine sulphate and morphine. By the 1860s Morsons was producing over five hundred different chemical substances, mainly of medicinal application. By the end of the century the firm had a world-wide export business, especially to India. In 1915 the company was incorporated as Thomas Morson and Son Ltd. The peak of production was reached in about 1930, at which time the firm entered into cooperation with the German chemical company, E Merck of Darmstadt, for the manufacture of sodium glycerophosphate (a substance included in tonic formulations). This development presaged the eventual takeover of Morsons by the American pharmaceutical corporation, Merck Sharp and Dohme, in 1957.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Thomas Newborn Robert Morson, (1800-1874), and Thomas Morson and Son Ltd, comprising T N R Morsons's Parisian journal, 1818; personal and professional papers, 1834-1871; personal, family and other correspondence, 1826-1957, including correspondence with Jacob Bell (1810-1859) founder of the Pharmaceutical Society, and Charles Dickens, novelist; legal papers and agreements, 1879-1963; business correspondence and papers, 1866-1970; accounts and other financial records, 1868-1979; recipes, production and sampling records, c 1848-1957; advertising records, 1821-c 1970; sales records, 1887-1955, including an order book containing a record of orders placed by the Secretary of State for India, 1887-1947; company scrapbooks and press cuttings, c 1906-1950; records of premises, c 1870-1965, including a series of photographs by Henri Claudet, of the works at Hornsey Rise; staff records, 1878-1971; historical publications and company history, 1916-1988; portrait photographs, c1850-1938 including T N R Morson and members of his family, and contemporary scientists, authors and others including Thomas Bell FRS, William Thomas Brande, Thomas Graham, Michael Faraday, and Heinrich Rose; other publications, 1751-1957; and the historical research papers of Anthony Morson.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, German and French.

System of arrangement:

As outlined in Scope and Content.

Conditions governing access:

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

Catalogue and index by Richard Aspin, 2000, available in the Wellcome Library and via the National Register of Archives.

Archival Information

Archival history:

The records were assembled by Mr Anthony Morson from various sources, although the bulk of the material derives from the Company's offices.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Anthony Morson, great-great grandson of T N R Morson, deposited his collection in the Wellcome Library in 1996-1997, following completion of his biography of Morson, Operative Chymist (The Wellcome Institute series in the History of Medicine, Rodopi, 1997).

Allied Materials

Related material:

Correspondence between Thomas Morson & Son Ltd and Joseph Lister relating to antiseptic substances (MS.6975/7-8).

The Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, holds correspondence between Thomas Morson & Son Ltd and Joseph Lister relating to antiseptic substances.

Publication note:

A F P Morson, 'An Eminent Bloomsbury Pharmacist', Camden History Review, Vol 15, 1988, pp 29-31.

A F P Morson, 'T.N.R. Morson and his Scientific Friends', Pharmaceutical Historian, Vol 20, No 4, Dec 1990, pp 6-7.

Operative Chymist by Anthony Morson, (The Wellcome Institute series in the History of Medicine, Rodopi, 1997).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Anya Turner.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
June 2008

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