Robert Warington's aquatic sojourn.

image of robert warington

Robert Warington 1807-1867

Microscopical & Chemical Societies - Apothecaries Hall - Balanced aquarium - Contact with Mitchell -
Specimens from Gosse - Doubts about Gosse - Conflict with Gosse - Accolade.

Thomas Warington was a transient ships victualler who, with his young family in the 1790's, moved between England's busy shipping ports as his occupation dictated. His third son Robert, born in Sheerness on the 7th September 1807, experienced his early childhood and schooling in Portsmouth, Boulogne and other ports before entering the more settled life as a boarder in the prestigious Merchant Taylors School in 1818. The school at that time was located in Suffolk House, in the city of London, and although it was intended he would be a land surveyor, within a few months of leaving in 1821 he became the house pupil to John Thomas Cooper (1790-1854) to study chemistry; Cooper being both a drug manufacturer and lecturer in chemistry in a number of medical educational establishments.

With the opening of the London University in 1828, by now having gained his articles, Warington took up the post of assistant in conjunction with William Gregory (1803-1858) to Professor Edward Turner (1796-1837). Holding the Chair of Chemistry at the newly opened university, Turner appointed Warington to take charge of the practical chemistry classes, which he continued for the three years of his tenure. It was on Turner's recommendation that Warington was offered the post of chemist offered by the London brewers Truman, Hanbury and Buxton, which he accepted in 1834.

Two years later on the 3rd August 1836 he married Elizabeth Jackson in Spitalfields parish church, Tower Hamlets, where their first child Amelia was baptised on the 21st July 1837. His wife Elizabeth was the daughter of surgeon George Jackson F.R.S. (1792-1860), a keen microscopist of repute. It was around this time that Warington joined the Mathematical Society of Spitalfields, which he attempted to regenerate by organising a number of lectures at their meeting place in Crispin Street, but with little success. It was here he would have been introduced to his father-in-law's close associate, James Scott Bowerbank. By the midsummer of 1839, having sufficient funds to support his family Warington was able to leave Truman's brewery to concentrate his attention on other interests.   

Microscopical & Chemical Societies.    up arrow

It was during this period of freedom from employment that Warington firmly set the foundations for his future. By now associating with the friends of his father-in-law George Jackson, Warington was able to join them in supporting Edwin Quekett to eventually form the Microscopical Society of London.

When residing at Wellclose Square, Mr. Ward gave frequent soirées, at which the microscope and its revelations were the prominent feature. Out of these meetings sprung the Microscopical Society in 1840; Mr. Ward, Dr. Bowerbank, and the late Messrs. Jackson and Edwin Quekett having taken the principal part in its foundation.
Through the greater part of his life Mr. Ward was associated with the Apothecaries Society of London, first in connection with the Gardens at Chelsea, then as examiner for the prizes in Botany, then as Master, when he endeavoured to bring the scientific element of the Society into prominence by giving two microsopical soirees, which have not since, there or elsewhere, been surpassed.
The Gardeners Chronicle & Agricultural Magazine, June 20th 1868. P 655/6, J. D. Hooker.

Warington's experience and close connection with Jackson were enough to ensure that at the inaugural meeting of the Society, both would be offered seats on its Council.It was this society that brought together the protagonists of the Regent's Park fish house.

At Edwin Quekett's house, on the 3rd of September 1839, seventeen microscopists met 'to take into consideration the propriety of forming a society for the promotion of microscopical investigation, and for the introduction and improvement of the Microscope as a scientific instrument.

The decision to found a society was the culmination of regular informal meetings of microscopists instigated by Nathaniel Ward and James Scott Bowerbank. The Rev. J.B. Reade in his presidential Address to the Society in 1870 reported that, at one of these gatherings, Bowerbank made the now famous comment: 'God bless the microscope; let us have a society!

Both Bowerbank and Ward were among the seventeen founders, as were Lister himself, Reade, Cornelius Varley, Andrew Ross, and George and Conrad Loddiges. It is interesting to note that Ward was a neighbour of Edwin Quekett in Wellclose Square, living at No.7, and that other original members of the new Society whose homes were also in the Square were Edwin's brother, the Rev. William Quekett at No.57, Charles Foulger at No.46, Entomologist, Edward Newman at No.45.

But this is to digress from the founding of the Society. The committee set up on 3 September drew up a constitution, and chose the name 'The Microscopical Society of London. A public meeting was planned to be held in the rooms of the Horticultural Society, 21 Regents Street, on 20 December 1839. At this meeting, Professor Richard Owen took the chair and was elected President, while Ward became Treasurer, and Farre Secretary. Forty-five men inscribed their names as original members. A Council was appointed, consisting of the following: J.S. Bowerbank, Thomas Edwards, Dr F. Farre, G Gwilt, George Jackson, Dr John Lindley, George Loddiges, the Rev. C. Pritchard, Edwin Quekett, M.J. Rippingham, R.H Solly, Robert Warington. God Bless the Microscope! A History of the Royal Microscopical Society Over 150 Years. by Gerard L'E Turner. Published 1989, ISBN 0950246344, p 7-8.

By this time not only was the structure of London beginning to change as the steam railways remorselessly ploughed through the suburbs, bringing ever more smoke to the already polluted city atmosphere, great changes were also taking place in education, public health and science. The formation of a Microscopical Society would contribute to this by not only encouraging the development of the instrument, but also by encouraging its use in all of the sciences.

Although the expense of acquiring a microscope could be seen as a barrier to joining the new society, as with all other learned Societies, membership could only be gained by proposal of an existing member with the support of two others, upon which the completed proposal form would be presented to the Council for acceptance. All membership proposals were required to be aired at least two weeks before being presented to allow all members the opportunity to dispute the proposal; thus making it somewhat like a gentleman's club. However, the Microscopical Society, as with other later scientific societies, soon accepted that knowledge and proven ability were more than the equal of social position.

Moving from Perry Street, after the birth their second child Robert in 1838, the Warington family took residence in Lambeth where their youngest son George was born on the 24th July 1840. With the ever-improving railway links between the major cities and London, written communication was also enhanced with the introduction of the pre-paid postage stamp, replacing the cumbersome practice of recipients having to pay upon delivery.

In the closing months of 1840, perhaps seeing the advantages gained by the formation of the Micrscopical Society, Warington invited a number of leading academics, chemical manufactures, and consulting chemists, to attend a meeting he had arranged on the 23rd February at the Society of Arts, John Street, Adelphi, London. His intention was to bring interested people together to form a Chemical Society, which he hoped would "break down the party spirit and petty jealousies which existed" and so "bring science and practice into closer communication."

With the meeting called to order it was moved that Professor Thomas Graham (1805-1869) should take the Chair and, on the motion of his first employer John Cooper, Robert Warington accepted the post of Honorary Secretary. Professor Graham put from the chair that a Chemical Society be formed, which was carried unanimously, followed by a proposition from Dr. Thomas Clarke and seconded by Dr. R.D. Thompson, that a provisional committee, which included William T. Brande (1788-1866) and Warington, should be formed to carry the resolution into effect. In closing, motions from the floor were proposed, seconded and carried that the Society of Arts be thanked for allowing Warington the use of their rooms and to Professor Graham for taking the chair.

The provisional committee soon completed their task, and Warington called another meeting for the 23rd of February, where the positions of Graham, Warington's and Brande as vice chairman were confirmed along with the constitution of the new Society. During this period, as temporary secretary, Warington sent a circular to other parties he thought might be interested, receiving fifty-four positive replies. The final act in the formation of the Society was to call a General Meeting on the 30th March, again at the Society of Arts, where the Society was formally constituted.

Being a founding member and officer in both the Chemical and Microscopical societies greatly enhanced Warington's position within the scientific community, which must have had considerably influence upon Ward and Brande when the post of Chemical Operator at the United Stock Company became vacant in 1842.   

Apothecaries Hall.   up arrow 

Although the United Stock Company laboratories and accommodation both adjoined, and were under the auspices of Apothecaries Hall, the Superintending Chemical Operator independently managed its operations. He in turn reported to a general committee representing the interests of the stockholders who, prior to securing exclusive contracts to supply the East India Company and Royal Navy, were exclusively members of Apothecaries Hall.

By the time of Warington's appointment, Brande held the post of Superintending Chemical Operator, and membership had been opened to attract stockholders from outside of the jurisdiction of the Hall. Illustrating how the remit of the stock company had changed from producing pure drugs and potions for London apothecaries, Henry Henel, the incumbent Chemical Operator, blew himself up whilst testing a new mercury formula for percussion caps for the East India Company, thus vacating the position taken up by Warington in the June of 1842.

Within twelve months of his appointment the United Stock Company also secured the exclusive contract to supply the Army Medical Board, making it the biggest manufacturer and supplier of drugs in the country. As big and powerful as the Apothecaries Society was, it continued selling drugs to apothecaries from a small shop next to the warehouse and by an order from a member, private visitors could also be shown around the modern steam powered manufacturing laboratories, as was Charles Dickens in 1856.

Whoever pays a visit to the Hall in Blackfriars, will be shown how it is composed of two distinct parts. From a steam-engine room he is taken to where great mill-stones powder rhubarb, rows of steam-pestles pound in iron mortars, steam-rollers mix hills of ointment, enormous stills silently do their work, calomel sublimes in closed ovens, magnesia is made and evaporated, crucibles are hot, and coppers all heated by steam are full of costly juices from all corners of the world. He will find in the cellar barrels fresh tapped of compound tincture of cardamoms, tincture of rhubarb, and such medicated brews; he will find in a private laboratory the most delicate scientific tests and processes employed for purposes of trade by a skilful chemist; he will find warehouses and packing-rooms, perhaps, heaped up with boxes of drugs to be sent out by the next ship to India, and apparently designed to kill or cure all the inhabitants of Asia. These are the premises of the United Stock. Household Words. A Weekly Journal conducted by Charles Dickens. Volume XIV. July 19, 1856 – Dec 27, 1856. Pp114.

Living so close to the laboratories with his wife, three children and a general house servant, Warington was on call both day and night, immediately gaining a reputation of keeping a watchful eye on the quality of all the laboratory produce. Although being an authoritative and well-respected chemist he was none the less regarded as a genial man with a happy disposition. He was also known to have commented that he regretted the time he had spent at school pouring over Latin and Greek and had, upon the birth of his children, determined with his wife Elizabeth, they should be educated at home.

It was in 1844 that an Excise Officer visited Warington at Apothecaries Hall with two samples of green and black tea, and although impinging upon his other work, agreed to analyse them for constituents of adulteration. Within a short period of this the cheapest tea's available to the working classes became know as lie tea, its constituent parts having little or no resemblance to real tea, which resulted in him checking a number of other foodstuffs and colorants for adulteration.   

Balanced aquarium.     up arrow

On the 22 of May 1849, then aged 41 years and with 42 chemistry papers published in his name, Warington surprised everybody with his sudden curiosity in aquatic matters, even though he stated it was the often repeated statement from Brande's Elements of Chemistry of 1821, that growing vegetation would counterbalance the vital functions of fish, which prompted his interest.

Such was his success he presented the conclusions of his experiments in a neatly rounded paper to the assembled members of the Chemical Society on the 4 March 1850. The paper subtly blended his religious convictions with scientific discovery; believing his balanced aquarium replicated nature in such a perfect manner only the evaporated water need ever be replaced. He had reached this conclusion by half filling a 12 gallon laboratory globular glass receiver with spring water, stocking it with two goldfish and a sprig of Vallisneria spiralis, setting its roots in a sandy mud bottom. To complete the self-sustaining circle he then introduced the water snail Himnaea stagnalis.

Thus we have that admirable balance sustained between the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and that in a liquid element. The fish, in its respiration, consumes the oxygen held in solution by the water as atmospheric air; furnishes carbonic acid; feeds on the insects and young snails; and excretes material well adapted as a rich food to the plant, and well fitted for its luxuriant growth.
The plant, by its respiration, consumes the carbonic acid produced by the fish, appropriating the carbon to the construction of its tissues and fibre, and liberates the oxygen in its gaseous state to sustain the healthy functions of the animal life, at the same time that it feeds on the rejected matter, which has fulfilled its purposes in the nourishment of the fish and snail, and preserves the water constantly in a clear and healthy condition, - while the slimy snail, finding its proper nutriment in the decomposing vegetable matter and minute confervoid growth, prevents their accumulation by removing them from the field, and, by its vital powers, converts what would otherwise act as poison, into a rich and fruitful nutriment, again to constitute a pabulum for the vegetable growth, while it also acts the important part of a purveyor to its finny neighbours.

This he believed not only proved the scientific principal of how life is sustained in nature, but also in the Higher order of life, where animals and plants were created to be subservient to others to maintain the balance the Almighty created to ensure their continued existence.

The paper was published in the April issue of the Quarterly Journal of the Chemical Society, and subsequently in the Literary Gazette, Gardeners Chronicle, Bicks Floristry and the August issue of the Zoologist, attracting the attention of a number of prominent scientists and naturalists, with many visiting his home at  Apothecaries Hall to view his miniature pond in its large glass receiver.   

Contact with Mitchell.     up arrow

With rumours of the proposition to build a fish house in the Regent's Park Zoological Gardens abounding in the natural history community, in the January of 1852, Warington sent a copy of his aquarium paper to David William Mitchell, Secretary of the Zoological Society of London. Mitchell replied explaining he intended to display both fresh water and marine creatures in the new Aquatic Vivarium. Knowing that Warington had continued with his experimental fish bowl, Mitchell also enquired if he might visit Apothecaries Hall to view it, subsequently meeting on the 22nd January.

By the time of Mitchell's visit another article by Warington had been published in the January issue of the The Garden Companion & Florists' Guide. Under the title of "The Aquatic Plant Case, or Parlour Aquarium", it not only reiterated his original paper, but also revealed the improvement he had achieved by dispensing with the large fish bowl, in favour of a rectangular tank of his own design themed to suit its occupants need. image 2

THE AQUATIC PLANT CASE, OR PARLOUR AQUARIUM. I have therefore adopted the form of vessel, of which a sketch is appended, having flat surfaces of plate-glass at the back and front, the bottom and ends being formed of slate, and supplied with a loose plate of glass at the top to keep out dust and soot to render the whole more ornamental, as it was to stand in a sitting room, some pieces of tufa, or sandstone, were attached to the ends by means of Roman cement, so as to form ledges and slopes rising from the water line, on which mosses and ferns, such as luxuriate in an atmosphere loaded with moisture, could be grown. These materials are set in a stout angular zinc framework, and connected with a mixture of white-lead ground in oil, to which about an equal quantity of red-lead is added. This arrangement I have found to answer all my expectations, as it has been going on most flourishingly since January 1851." The Garden Companion, and Florists' Guide. January 1852.

The description of the glass and slate tank was not only the same design as those Mitchell was having manufactured, but the article continued with the detailed information concerning the growth of the vegetation in the new tank and of his intention to apply his freshwater theory to the marine environment. Intending to present further conclusions from his fish studies in Belfast at the September meeting of the Natural History section of the Royal Society, with the manufacturing laboratories demanding ever more of his time, he was somewhat fortuitously unable to attend. Instead he hurriedly assembled his notes together in the form of another paper and submitted it for publication in the October issue of the Annals.

My object in bringing the accompanying observations before the public is to endeavour to direct, more in detail than I have hitherto been able to do, the attention of naturalists, and those who take a delight and pleasure in the study of Nature's wonderful and glorious works, to a very simple means of easily investigating the habits and economy of all those numerous classes of animal and vegetable life that are capable of being brought within the limited precincts of the small water-cases I have elsewhere described*. And when I state that these observations have been made by one most ignorant on the subject of natural history, and a perfect tyro in this field of research, as the details of this communication will fully demonstrate; when I mention also that they have been made at leisure intervals of very short duration, snatched as an amusement and as opportunities occurred from the weightier matters of professional business;- I hope that it may encourage others to follow in the same most interesting course of investigation, when, aided by a little perseverance, they may ensure for themselves an abundant reward. The matured naturalist I am sure will agree with me in the argument, that if such observations can be made by those unacquainted with the subject, and without trouble or inconvenience, it does offer a means of research which should develop some most interesting and important results, and that the same principle is capable of being extended to a much larger scale; a demonstration of which I believe will be very speedily exhibited. As regards the growth of the plants employed in these miniature ponds, I have already briefly treated in the "Garden Companion" for January last, and shall therefore confine myself in the present communication to the two other members of the circle. *The Garden Companion, and Florists' Guide. January 1852.

The paper continued with the problems he had encountered when the water snails ate the living plants faster than they could regenerate, followed by his observations on the habits of the freshwater sticklebacks that were now occupying his rectangular tank. In the closing paragraph Warington almost casually remarks of his problems obtaining suitable marine specimens, which was hindering his progress.

There are several other interesting particulars regarding the habits of the several fish, &c., which I have had the opportunity of experimenting with, and which may form the subject of some future memoranda. I would merely remark in conclusion, that I have after many difficulties and failures succeeded in keeping sea-water perfectly clear for upwards of six months, and that I have for the last five weeks had several sea-anemones living in it which at present appear extremely healthy, and the water has not been disturbed for the last fourteen days. My great difficulty in the midst of London has been to obtain materials to work with.   

Specimens from Gosse.     up arrow

As soon as the paper was published, Warington received a letter from Philip Henry Gosse, who by chance had submitted a paper on the same topic to the Annals in the same month; subsequently both were published in the same issue. Responding to Warington's thinly veiled request, Gosse offered to help.

Northfield, Ilfracombe
October 1 1852
Dear Sir,
As we are engaged in the same investigations I think you will pardon the freedom of my addressing you. It is very curious that your communication and mine should appear in the Annals together, and dated on the same day. Far as be any thoughts of jealousy on the subject of common interest; I rejoice to see that your success has far exceeded mine, as you have kept sea-water pure for six months.
Can I at all assist you in prosecuting your experiments, the extreme interest of which and your ability in pursuing them are absolutely shown in your most valuable communication? You complain of your difficulty in London of obtaining materials for your experiments. I think I can in some measure meet this. I will very gladly collect the red Algae of various species in a growing state, and many species of zoophytes etc., and forward them to you by Rail, if you can only send me down jars.

After posting the empty screw top jars Gosse requested, they were returned with the requisite specimens on the 20th of October. In November, Warington received Gosse at Apothecaries Hall who, after some discussion, agreed to provide him with another jar of specimens the very next day, enabling him to continue his marine experiments apace. There is no record of Warington's still being a member of the Microscopical Society at this time; if he were he would have surely been at least acquainted with Gosse whose membership to the same society had been supported by Bowerbank in the winter of 1849, and by this time had also been elected onto the Society Council.   

Doubts about Gosse.     up arrow

On the 9th of May 1853, with the London spring season approaching, Warington received another, albeit belated response to his veiled request for marine specimens. The sender, William Thompson of Weymouth (1822-1879), although not being as direct as or gracious as Gosse was none the less interested in helping, but not with the unequivocal support Gosse had provided. Perhaps flattered by Thompson's description of him as "the first projector and originator of the marine vivarium", when he continued with the stinging rebuttal that "I hesitate very much as to the propriety of according to Mr Gosse any honour for the originality of his paper", may well have set the first seed of doubt in Warington's mind of his perception of Gosse's support. Thompson ended the letter with his offer "Should you, however, feel disposed, I think your knowledge of chemistry combined with my knowledge of natural history and facilities Image3for carrying it out, might, if we work together produce important results.

Thompson had included with the letter a copy of his paper On Marine Vivaria, published in that months issue of the Annals, which noted the success he had achieved and a plan of the tank he had used. Living within yards of the seashore he was able to support a huge tank 12 feet long and 2 feet deep, holding seawater to a maximum depth of 1½ feet, regularly reduced to a depth 1 foot to simulate low tide. The action of replacing the drained water after a short period of low water also re-vitalised the water thus refreshing the whole. The tank also included an inclined bed, which created a dark chamber beneath, but its purpose was not explained. have yet to discover if Warington replied to Thompson, but he did take note of the incline illustrated in his tank design.

Saturday, May 22nd 1853, huge crowds witnessed the grand opening of the fish house in the Zoological Society Gardens at Regent's Park. In the followed weeks press reports Mitchell was given the credit for the success of the new display although most also cited Warington's paper as background information on the principles he had established.Gosse, in his latest book, A Naturalist's Rambles on the Devonshire Coast, released just before the opening of the fish house, briefly acknowledged Warington's contribution and precedence, but in the appendix, invited readers to view the results of his experiments being displayed at the Regent's Park Zoological Gardens; implying the marine display acknowledged the success of his endeavours.Soon after this as the marine aquarium became a popular hobby, upon which Gosse was known to say he was the inventor of the marine aquarium whilst Warington was the inventor of the freshwater vivarium. This simple statement stirred others to relate instances of fish being kept under the same circumstances as Warington but of never having published, thinking it to be a subject of common knowledge, which eventually created more than a little unrest in the natural history publications.

Receiving two more jars of marine specimens from Gosse during the summer of 1853, contributed to Warington being able to read the conclusions of his marine experiments at the autumn meeting of the British Association, in Hull. He also recommended for purposes of study, aquariums should be themed to suite its occupant's natural surroundings, confirming his ever growing interest in using the aquarium as a tool for observation.   

Conflict with Gosse.     up arrow

Leading up to the breakout of the Crimean War in the October of 1853, on the advice of Professor Brande a new steam engine had been previously installed in the production laboratories at Apothecaries Hall to cope with a perceived increase in demand for medical supplies manufactured under Warington's management. Although under extreme stress at work during 1854, Warington continued with his aquarium experiments, even finding time to receive visitors, including Gosse on two more occasions. One of the topics they must have discussed during these visits was the use of factitious seawater, which Warington had been using with great success since 1853, although never announcing it or publishing his formula. Some months after their last meeting in 1854, a paper written by Gosse was published in the July issue of the Annals informing of his success in keeping a list of marine specimens in good health using factitious seawater to his own simple receipt, and although out of character, Gosse was unable to resist commenting –

"Several scientific friends to whom I mentioned my thoughts, expressed their doubts of the possibility of the manufacture, and one or two went so far as to say that it had been tried, but that it had been found not to answer; that though it looked like sea-water, tasted, smelt, like the right thing, yet it would not support animal life."

With an ever-increasing workload and of being appointed Chemical Referee by four Metropolitan Gas Companies, Warington was perhaps unaware of Gosse's comments as he submitted another paper to the Annals, published in the 1854 September issue. This was in the form of six memoranda; three on freshwater aquaria; three on seawater aquaria. The freshwater memos referred to his latest observations regarding the water snail, the continued success of his original aquarium, and the destructive effects upon the Vallisneria spiralis by the grazing habits of the Hydra fusca. The three seawater memos were concerned with the lighting conditions required to successfully grow red seaweeds; keeping specimens alive and in health in shallow pans without the aid of seaweed; and detailed specifications of his latest tank design. The paper prompted little comment even though announcing the success of an aquarium need not be dependent upon the inclusion of vegetable matter as the natural reaction between the surface of the water and the atmosphere could, taking into account the volume of water, its surface area and mass of animal life needing support, adequately satisfy their respiratory needs.

His new tank, again constructed with glass and slate within a zinc frame, incorporated a bottom that sloped down from the image 4top of the back to adjoin the bottom front of the tank, thus eliminating one panel. This design, with the sloping panel being dressed with various size stones and vegetation, gave the fish a choice of depth and, when positioned in front of a window, allowed the light to illuminate the contents only through the waters surface; as in nature.

Either discovering, or having it brought to his attention, Warington took offence to Gosse's closing remarks in his factitious seawater paper. Although not implicated in any way he felt obliged to reply, which was published in the December issue of the Annals. His paper revealed to all he had discussed the topic with Gosse in January and was probably responsible for the remarks which had so offended him. Detailing his own factitious seawater formula, based upon Dr. Schweitzer's, Warington strongly disputed the chemical validity of Gosse's receipt.

Perhaps indicating the pressure he was under at work and his growing frustration with Gosse, who by now was seemingly being acclaimed as the inventor of the aquarium, Warington studied and copied a number of paragraphs from Gosse's latest book The Aquarium: an unveiling of the wonders of the deep sea, as if preparing notes in anticipated another critical paper being published by Gosse; which he would readily dispute. From his scribbled notes he seems to be challenging the statement that Gosse first met Mitchell in December 1852, and that during the same year five thousand specimens passed through his hands. Warington's notes also query the date Gosse started his marine experiments, identifying the May rather than the January of 1852 as claimed by Gosse. This would give precedence to Warington who published in the January of that year. He also disputes Gosse declaring the word aquarium as if he had invented it, whereas again, Warington had used the term Parlour Aquarium in his paper published in the January of 1852.   

Accolade.    up arrow

Choosing to ignoring Gosse's blunt comments regarding their discussions about factitious seawater published in January issue of the Annals, three months later in the 1855 April issue, Warington's paper regarding his observations of the common prawn were published. This clearly indicated his interest in the aquarium was now more related to using it as a tool for the observation of its inhabitants, than of scientific experimentation; the paper, written very much in the style of Gosse, was both detailed and entertaining, covering the prawns structure, habits and shell casting frequency.

With the pressure of the press reports on the poor care of Crimean war casualties which included the need for evermore drugs for their treatment, and with his investigations into the adulteration of tea and drugs, which he presented to the Parliamentary Committee in the July of this year, Warington's still found time to submit two more aquarium papers. The first, published in the October 1855 issue of the Zoologist, enlarged upon his first seawater memo regarding light and illumination entitled The Injurious Effects of an excess or want of heat and Light on the Aquarium; which also addressed the issues that were by then causing great concern at the Regent's Park aquariums.

Perhaps indicating his ever-increasing workload was leaving him less and less time to attend to his aquarium studies, and, as if in a manner of tidying up, he submitted his concluding notes on the habits of the stickleback, which were published in the November issue of the Annals. As London celebrated the end of the Crimean War in the spring of 1857, public aquariums were opening in cities throughout Britain and the parlour aquarium craze had grown beyond all expectation. With new aquarium books or articles being published seemingly every month in every conceivable journal, the Royal Institution, as if recognising Warington would never again turn his attention to natural history observation or aquatic matters, invited him to present a discourse on his aquarium achievements to an invited audience.

The speaker opened the evening's demonstration by stating that he had immediately responded to the invitation of the Managers of the Royal institution to deliver this discourse, on what they had been pleased to call his own subject, from the feeling that, as the originator of the aquarium, he was duty bound to afford to all those who had taken up this new pleasure every assistance, from the results of his own experience, that lay in his power, in order to render the undertaking more easy and pleasurable; and for this purpose he proposed to lay before this audience, as far as is practicable, a demonstration of the principles on which it was founded, particularly as very erroneous ideas had been promulgated on the subject, and instructions given in several most engaging publications which might tend materially to mislead and disappoint those inclined to recreate themselves with this interesting subject.

This was the last time Warington spoke or wrote publicly about the principles of the aquarium or of his natural history observations. With the introduction of the 1858 medical reforms he turned his full attention to his more important chemical studies, being centrally engaged in producing a national compendium of drugs. Two years after Warington's discourse at the Royal institute, his youngest son George, at the age of 21 was employed by the United Stock Company at Apothecaries Hall, as foreman of the laboratories, later to succeed his father as Chemical Operator in 1866. With his reputation already sealed, in 1862 Robert Warington was a juror in the International Exhibition, and in the June of 1864 was elected into the Fellowship of the Royal Society. With his health deteriorating he spent the winter of 1865 in Hastings and the following winter in Worthing, but to no avail. With his lungs becoming ever more infected he was unable to attend as a juror for the Paris Exhibition in 1867, instead retired to Budleigh Salterton on the south coast of Devon where he died at the age of 60 in the November of 1867.

Perhaps wrongly, Robert Warington is now remembered more for his brief diversion into aquarium experimentation, which many believe he regarded as little more than a passing hobby, than for his other important achievements and work in Victorian chemistry.   up arrow

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