Frederick Crace-Calvert Correspondence

Scope and Content

This collection of correspondence relates solely to Calvert's work on the production of carbolic acid and associated products and the efforts he made to promote his products both nationally and internationally. All the letters are incoming items of correspondence and the collection does not contain any items penned by Calvert himself.

Of particular interest are the three items of correspondence received from Joseph Lister (FCC/1), as these not only demonstrate the importance of Calvert's work but give an invaluable insight into Lister's pioneering work on antiseptic practices including a description of ideas he formulated for antiseptic dressings. Other items from leading sanitary officer Robert Rawlinson (FCC/2), individuals in central government (FCC/3), and the Admiralty (FCC/4) represent the wider role Calvert played in encouraging the use of carbolic products in public sanitation as well as his position as a businessman promoting the use of his products in competition with others.

Administrative / Biographical History

Frederick Crace-Calvert was a renowned Manchester ndustrial and analytical chemist. He was born in London on 14 November 1819, the son of Alfred Crace (1782-1847), who later adopted the surname Crace-Calvert, and his wife Sarah Ann Trery (d.1836). In 1835, at the age of 16, he is known to have moved to France where he studied chemistry and worked alongside a number of notable chemists gaining valuable experience in the field. He studied at Rouen under Professor Jean Pierre Louis Girardin (1803-1884), who held the chair of chemistry there, for two years and continued his studies in Paris at the Jardin des Plantes, the Sorbonne, Collége de France, and Ecole de Médicine. He was later employed by the chemical company of Robiquet, Boyveau, and Pelletier and from 1841 until he left France in 1846 he assisted the eminent chemist Michel-Eugène Chevreul (1786-1889) both at Gobelins and Jardin des Plantes and the Musée d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris.

He returned to England in 1846 and established himself in Manchester and in 1847 was appointed Honorary Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Manchester Institution where he lectured regularly from his laboratory. Working alongside the local textiles industry in Manchester and the surrounding areas Calvert was involved with such practices as calico-printing and the operation of a company for the conditioning of silk and wool. As well as his interest in the application of chemistry to industry he held a great interest in the application of chemistry to public health and medicine and is known to have been closely associated with many Manchester physicians, to have taught at the Pine Street Medical School, and to have given joint lectures alongside the founder of the Manchester Royal School of Medicine, Thomas Turner (1793-1873) at the Royal Manchester Institution. His investigations into putrefaction undertaken in the late 1850s/early 1860s were begun at the request of the MRI's House Surgeon, Joseph Atkinson Ransome (1805-1867).

Whilst in Manchester he discovered the first commercially viable method of manufacturing carbolic acid (phenol) suitable for medical use and Calvert's production of carbolic acid in its pure form was instrumental in facilitating the work of Joseph Lister (1827-1912) on antiseptic surgery. Even before the publication of Lister's findings in 1867, Calvert had been heavily involved in the promotion of the use of carbolic acid as a disinfectant and recognised the potential benefits it could bring in terms of public health. He had first been introduced to the idea of the production of disinfecting fluids as a student in France working alongside chemist and health official J. Ledoyen and together Calvert and Ledoyen worked to promote their disinfecting fluid and tested it out on British warships. In 1859 he established his own company, F. C. Calvert & Co., and over time his company focused its efforts on the use of carbolic acid in household soaps and disinfectants as well as working closely with the textile industry in the production of dyes and bleaches.

On 9 June 1859 he was elected a fellow of The Royal Society and in 1864 delivered a lecture on "Chemistry Applied to the Arts" as part of the Royal Society's first series of Cantor Lectures in industrial technology. During his career he made numerous contributions to both British and French scientific journals on subjects relating to applied chemistry.

He was married to a Frenchwoman, Jeanne Françoise Clemence Crace-Calvert, who died in Sussex in 1894. They are not known to have had any children. Frederick Crace-Calvert died on 24 October 1873 at his home Clayton Vale House, Newton Heath, near Manchester, after contracting typhoid on a trip to Vienna earlier that year where he had gone to serve as a juror at the 1873 International Exhibition.


  • FCC/1 - Letters received from Joseph Lister, 1867-1871
  • FCC/2 - Letters received from Robert Rawlinson, 1867-1869
  • FCC/3 - Letters received from Central Government Offices, 1869-1870
  • FCC/4 - Letters received from the Admiralty, 1870
  • FCC/5 - Letters received from the Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, 1869
  • FCC/6 - Letters relating to Francis 10th Lord Napier, 1869-1870
  • FCC/7 - Letters received after Calvert's death, 1876-1909

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

Relevant files in the Manchester Medical Collection, also held by the University of Manchester Library, include:

  • MMC/1/CalvertF  - Four publications by Calvert, 1852-1873
  • MMC/14/2/6  - Observations in Refutation of Certain Changes Preferred Against the Alum Works of Messrs. Spence & Dixon, 1855, containing a scientific report into the works by Dr Robert Angus Smith and Frederick Crace-Calvert.
  • MMC/14/15/2  - Sewer Rivers: Minute of Committee on the Practicability of Purifying the Water Flowing from the River Medlock into the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal, a published report by the Manchester and Salford Sanitary Association, 1856.

Manchester Archives and Local Studies hold the records of the Royal Manchester Institution which includes a number of items of correspondence addressed to Calvert contained within the out letter books, (M6/1/49/1-7 ). The same collection also contains a number of syllabuses for Calvert's lectures, given whilst he was Professor of Chemistry, including:

Manchester Archives and Local Studies also hold records relating to the Manchester and Salford Sanitary Association which includes a publication by Calvert entitled Respiration and Food (M126/5/1/44) and a letter from Calvert to the Sub Committee appointed to inquire into the Adulteration of Food and Drugs, 1855 (M126/5/1/38).

Cheshire Archives and Local Studies hold the Brooke of Norton Collection which contains a letter from Calvert to Messrs Potts & Roberts reporting a visit to Sir R. Brooke's property and Messrs' Mathieson & Co. regarding the environmental damage done by black smoke coming from their chimneys (DBN/D/24B/14).


  • Crace Calvert, F, 'On Some New Volatile Alkaloids Given Off During Putrefaction', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 1860, vol. 10, pp.341-343.
  • Crace Calvert, F, 'On the Therapeutic Properties of Carbolic Acid', The Lancet, 1863, 2(2091), pp.362-363.
  • Crace Calvert, F, 'On the Manufacture and Properties of Carbolic Acid', The Lancet, 1867, 2(2311), pp.733-734.
  • Crace Calvert, F, On Protoplasmic Life: and the Action of Heat and Antiseptics Upon It (Manchester: WH Clegg, 1873).
  • Lister, J, 'On the Antiseptic Principle in the Practice of Surgery', The Lancet, 1867, 2(2299), pp.353-356.
  • 'Proceedings of Societies: Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, The Late Dr Crace-Calvert', Chemical News, 1875, Vol.31, pp.56-57.
  • Wach, HM, 'Culture and the Middle Classes: Popular Knowledge in Industrial Manchester' Journal of British Studies, 1988, 27(4), pp.375-404.
  • Grellin, JK, The Disinfectant Studies by F. Crace Calvert and the Introduction of Phenol as a Germicide, (London: International Society for the History of Pharmacy, 1965)

Geographical Names