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William Roberts (physician)

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Sir William Roberts FRS 18 March 1830 – 16 April 1899 was a Welsh physician in Manchester, England


  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Contribution to the discovery of penicillin
  • 3 Coining of the term "enzyme"
  • 4 Dietetics and Dyspepsia
  • 5 Royal Commission on Opium
  • 6 Later life
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links

Early life

Roberts was born on 18 March 1830 at Bodedern on the Isle of Anglesey the son of David and Sarah Roberts He was educated at Mill Hill School and at University College, London, graduating with a BA in 1851

After completion of his medical studies he was appointed a house surgeon at Manchester Royal Infirmary and became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons He was appointed Professor of Medicine, Owens College, Manchester from 1863 to 1883 His particular research field was that of renal disease He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1877 and knighted in 1885

Contribution to the discovery of penicillin

Between 1870 and 1874, Roberts studied the dissolution of bacteria in cultures contaminated by a mold He specifically studied the impact of Penicillium glaucum, a close relative of the Penicillium notatum

See Discoveries of anti-bacterial effects of penicillium moulds before Fleming

Coining of the term "enzyme"

Roberts coined the word "enzyme" in 1881, based on the Greek word "enzym", which Wilhelm Kuehne used in 1876 The anglicized version became popular among researchers by the 1890s

Dietetics and Dyspepsia

In 1884, the publication of his "Dietetics and Dyspepsia" described "high feeding" and "low feeding": the diets of the upper and lower class He speculated that diet was the reason for aristocratic capacity for intellectualism

Royal Commission on Opium

When political pressure was brought against the British government's involvement in the Sino-Indian opium trade, the 1893–1895 Royal Commission on Opium was created to investigate the drug Sir William Roberts was the medical expert on the commission

Later life

He died in London on 16 April 1899, and was buried in Llanymawddwy, Merionethshire


  1. ^ a b c Power 1901
  2. ^ "Library archive" Royal Society Retrieved 24 August 2012 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Power, D'Arcy 1901 "Roberts, William 1830-1899" In Lee, Sidney Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement​ London: Smith, Elder & Co 

External links

  • The wonder drug

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