This page on Bridgwater Scientists was inspired by the late Dr Peter Cattermole who was Hon Curator of the Blake Museum 2010-2012. He had been a chemistry teacher by profession, and lived at 32 Friarn Street, once the residence of Robert Gillo, 1841-1891, Photographer, Zoologist, Chemist. He had written about The Bridgwater Franciscan friar, John Somar, Astronomer, and Mathematician. On learning of my work for the Dictionary of National Biography and the Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers he asked that I investigate other Bridgwater Scientists. I had already written about John Allen c.1660-1741, Physician and Inventor. The nineteenth century saw a network of scientists collaborating in natural history Robert Anstice 1757-1845, William Baker 1757-1853 and James Jennings 1772-1833 and later John Clark 1785-1853 and Thomas Clark 1793-1864.
There may well be others awaiting discovery, who will be added in due course.
Tony Woolrich September 2022
The Bridgwater Franciscan friar, John Somar, 1340-1409, was an astronomer, and mathematician, and his writings were quoted by Geoffrey Chaucer. A few generations later Thomas Charnock c.1525-1581 was well known as a Alchemist.
At the end of the C17 John Moore, 1643-1717, Presbyterian Minister and Schoolmaster set up an Academy attached to the Christ Church Chapel, Dampiet Street, where the training of new ministers included Natural Philosophy, as science was called then. John Allen. c.1660-1741, was a Physician and Inventor. He wrote a well known book about medical practise then, and was a friend of Thomas Newcomen, the inventor of the Atmospheric steam engine.
Enlightenment and Victorian
John Allen. c.1660-1741, was a Physician and Inventor. He wrote a well known book about medical practise then, and was a friend of Thomas Newcomen, the inventor of the Atmospheric steam engine. By the end of the C18 Robert Anstice, 1757-1845, William Baker, 1757-1853, and James Jennings, 1772-1833, were all Natural Historians. Anstice and Baker were both Fellows of the Geological Society. Jennings was an ornithologist; Andrew Crosse, 1784-1855, experimented in electricity. John Clark, 1785-1853, and Thomas Clark, 1793-1864, were both botanists; John Bowen, 1785 – 1854. Bowen might be described as a social scientist, for he campaigned against the injustices of the new Poor Law of 1832. Spencer James Perceval, 1838-1922, was an antiquary and Geologist; Robert Gillo, 1841-1891, was a Photographer, Zoologist, Chemist.
Henry Corder, 1853 – 1944, was an Astronomer and lecturer; Harold Stuart Thompson, 1870 – 1940, was a Botanist. Thomas Hedley Barry, 1891-1970, was an Industrial Chemist, and an expert in varnishes and explosives, but his interest later lay in local history, which he wrote about. He also photographed Bridgwater buildings.
There are also the Holland sisters each of whom was married to a chemist. Their father, William Holland, was a resident of Bridgwater, sometime Mayor, and lived in later years at The Lions. For further information see here.