Shrewsbury Chemist & Scientist T. P. Blunt



Thomas Porter Blunt

thomas Porter Blunt photo


     Mr. T. Blunt published many scientific papers, most of them from his analytical work. There are indications of how far he was in advance of his day when he suggested a colorimetric method for quantitive estimation. He was a Fellow of the institute of Chemistry and a Fellow of the Chemical Society.*

He was offered a knighthood for his achievements in research, but humbly declined * * . His partner in research, Arthur Downes, accepted the title.
( More on Arthur Henry Downes - His Obituary - His Tombstone
His Publications , More )


Nature - July 12 1877, Downes and Blunt announce they have been working over the past few months investigating the effects of light upon the development of bacteria in certain of those solutions in which they are usually produced.

Downes A., and Blunt T. P., “Researches on the Effect of Light upon Bacteria and Other Organisms”, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 26; 488, 1877.
Submitted October 18, 1877 with Postscript November 5, 1877 available HERE

A. Downes and T P Blunt “on the influence of light upon protoplasm”
Proc.Roy.Soc. vol. 28 p.199-213 1878 HERE

Downes A., and Blunt T. P., “Behaviour of Oxalic Acid and the Oxalates of the Alkalies, and of Potassium Iodide, in Sunlight”, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Volume 29, p 219-221
available here:

'The Influence of Light on bacteria" Dr. James Jamieson of Royal Society of Victoria, Melbourne June 8 1882 Paper attempting to refute Downes /Blunt discovery

'The Influence of Light on bacteria" Royal Society of Victoria, Melbourne -
1884 - rebuttal to comments and more comments by Dr. James Jamieson...available Here

“The Relation of Certain Bacteria to Agriculture”( ref: original copy: as read to the Caradoc and Severn Valley Field Club )

"The effect of light upon some reagents and chemical compounds" T. P. Blunt M.A. Oxon . F.C.S. ... Royal Society of Chemistry - available Here

Thos.P Blunt,  M.A. Oxon.F.C.S. - was Chemist to the Shropshire Chamber of Agriculture

Scroll down for more papers
  *quoted from obit transcription   **Family History      

     His famous research which he carried out in conjunction with Dr. Arthur Downes, was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society No. 184 1877, under the title "Researches on the effect of Light upon Bacteria and other Organisms."

Downes & Blunt were a remarkable union of talent. They found that direct sunlight is quickly fatal to most bacteria and even in a little longer time to spores, while diffused light is less harmful.

They found the blue, violet and ultraviolet rays of sunlight had the greatest bactericidal effects and that heat had no role, and the Germicidal activity of Ultraviolet Rays was discovered.

(according to the obit although no mention of the name....)
The following passage is quoted from an authority on ultra-violet radiation - "In 1877 Downes and Blunt proved the bactericidal action of light. Two series of culture tubes were submitted to irradiation; one of the tubes was surrounded by lead-foil which would prevent the action of light, but not that of heat, the other tubes were left uncovered, and it was found that only in the former did the organisms grow. The media in which the bacteria were killed were again inoculated with organisms which developed normally, proving that the light acted on the organs themselves and not on the media, and that the heat had no bactericidal effect." Light as a curative agent has a popular interest just now in view of its use in the King's illness, but the importance of the work done in Shrewsbury in the seventies in this connection is apt to be overlooked or under-estimated.

    A quotation from a standard work of "Heliotherapy" by Dr. A. Rollier, published in 1923:
  "The scientific history (of the bactericidal action of light) really began with the work of Downes and Blunt in 1877.  These researches of Downes and Blunt occupy the same position in the study of the bactericidal action of light as those of Newton do in thc study of radiant energy."



 A.  Within the next thirty years it was found that the ultraviolet component of the solar spectrum was effective in killing off a number of micro-organisms, including anthrax, cholera, dysentery, the plague and tuberculosis - the Finsen lamp by Niels Finsen - demonstrated that sunlight therapy could treat diseases of the skin.
    In the presentation speech for Finsen's Nobel Prize in Physiology or medicine, Downes and Blunt are credited with having begun the process:
see: Presentation Speech - 1903

B. In 1911, Dr Auguste Rollier, a Swiss physician, treated 369 cases of tuberculosis by the sun's rays. Of these, 284 were healed, 48 improved, on 21 there was no change, and only 4 percent died.  

Publication ref: Ultra-Violet: The Untold Story by Michael Lofton:
  " Downes and Blunt, in 1877, discovered the dramatic ability of sunlight to destroy and provide for an effective means of treating bacterial infections. Another famous practitioner of sun therapy was Auguste Rollier MD, whose clinic was at 5,000 feet above sea level. Dr. Rollier stated that his patients would get the best results if they received the highest amount of ultraviolet light at this altitude. Ultraviolet intensity increases 4% to 5% every 1000 feet ascended. He apparently substantiated incredible results, which were published in his book La Cure de Soleil / Curing with the Sun"

The inaugeration of Radiobiology as a science to Modern methods of solar water disinfection

Several decades after the discovery of microbial inactivation with UV light from the sun by Downes and Blunt in 1877 ...The invention of the mercury arc by Cooper-Hewitt in 1901...and the Quartz-Burner as the first intensive UV source by Mich in the first full-scale UV disinfection apparatus by Henri and coworkers in France 1910.
UV enhancement components are once again being utilized for water purification.

APPRECIATION of the work of T. P. Blunt

*In the course of an appreciation, written to Miss M.E.. Blunt (daughter) by an old medical friend, occur the phrases:-

  "I always feel that recognition for his early work, and even fame, came to him while he was yet alive and able to appreciate the honour in which his name was held. It was certainly long overdue. Even yet in his own country, that work is too little known ; but it was true pioneer work and all the wonderful modern developments of treatment by Finsen light, ultra-violet rays, carbon arc lamps, etc., date back to it and are founded on his discoveries. Possibly even His Majesty the King, owes his recoveries to these agencies. If so, he owes it directly to your father's work."

He was a nephew of Henry Blunt, the noted Shrewsbury artist.

     Among his friends he numbered Samuel Butler, English composer, novelist, & satiric author, and he also had associations with Charles Darwin, and Dr. Darwin his father.

* quoted from obit transcription. Also see #3 on list below


Early education Friar's School Bangor
Chemistry/Natural Science, Oxford B.A. M.A.
Blunt, Thomas Porter , is. Thomas, of St. Giles. Shrewsbury, gent.
MAGDALEN HALL, matric. 20 Oct., 1860, aged 18 ; B.A. 1864, M.A

Royal Pharmaceutical Society Exam 1867
Registered as Chemist & Druggist 1868
Joined Society of Analysts 1874 - Served on the council 1891/92
Public Analyst for Shropshire, County Analyst for Montgomery, Merioneth and the borough of Wenlock
Official Agricultural Analyst for Shropshire
Gas Examiner for Shrewsbury until 1917
Responsible for Botanical Collection / Shropshire museum


T. P. Blunt Links:

Please excuse any links that do not work, I try to keep up with
the changes made to sites and urls, so please inform me by email

1. Open University database

2. The Scientific Articles Collected by Ian Fleming /Lilly Library

3. Finsen's Nobel Prize in Physiology or medicine
    Presentation Speech - 1903 / credit Pioneers Blunt & Downes

4. The Darwin Correspondence Online Database, congratulatory
    correspondence to Thos. Blunt Sr. regarding Thomas Blunt Jr.
    A Samuel Butler correspondence. pages 52/53

5. In 1877, Downes and Blunt found that sunlight was able to kill
    bacteria and in 1892, Marshall Ward furthered this research.
    R.U.G. Library - PDF Page 24

6. Please see the newspaper articles under "What did the Authorities     do to combat Cholera?" from: Shropshire Routes to Roots

7. Bactericidal Radiation / Rife / Credit Blunt & Downes

8. Basis of Radiotherapy / Treatment of Cancer

9. Stages of medicine / Defeated Diseases/ Credit Blunt & Downes

10. Published in the Chemical News and Journal of Industrial Science

1865 - July 21 on Preparation of Liquor bismothi v12 p27
1867 - Jan 25 1867 Organic Matter in Water v15 p 47   BJG Feb p.95       
           Mar. to Editor Organic Matter in Water v15 p133   Parkinson p154  
          ( answers to correspondents earlier in issue re:**Phosphate of Magnesium)
1868 - Oct 12 on Detection of Nitrates in Waters v18 p311/312
1872 - May The estimation of nitric acid in potable waters v25 p205
1874 - Feb 20 to Editor on Production of Amonia v25 p91
1875 - Notes on the analysis of minium or red lead v32 p3/4
1876 - Oct 3 to Editor Rose colour observed in the manufacture of Chlorate of Potash             vol p171/172
1876 - Jan 1 to Editor Estimation of minute traces of copper v.33 p.7
1877 - Dec.8 Note on Actions of sunlight upon solutions of oxalic acid
            T.P. Blunt & A. Downes v36 p279
            Jan 1878 Hartley and H.P in answer to above37/34 p.9
1878 - Dec 16 Blunt & Downes to Editor on Water Analysis     Jan 4 1878
1878 - Jan 5 vol 37/38 p19 re: Actions of sunlight upon solutions of oxalic acid -            nutrification T.P. Blunt & A. Downes(vol 36 p 279 ) 
1885 - Feb.18 on Plant versus animal     v51 p106
1885 - June on Estimation of nitric acid in water

Transcription **Phosphate of Magnesium. — We have received a letter from Mr. Thomas P.Blunt, of Shrewsbury, containing an account of further experiments on the phosphide of magnesium, but as they are at present incomplete, and the author has not yet had an opportunity of meeting the charges of inaccuracy brought against him by Mr. Parkinson, the further discussion of the subject must necessarily stand over until the appearance of the forthcoming Journal of the Chemical Societty, which will no doubt contain the official report of Mr. Parkinson's statements at the meeting of the 6th ult.

11. Published in the Journal of The Chemical society of London

1865 - Notes on Phosphide of Magnesium journal 3 p.106-108
1865 - Specific Gravity of Crystalline Strychnine series 3 17, 62
66/67 - The Identification of Strychnine vol. 8
1871 - Bismuthi Subcarbonus v1 p744
1887 - A Simple Nitrometer T. P. Blunt. . 3rd series, xvii. 763
1888 - Preserving of Damsons T. P. Blunt. ( preserving plums! ) 3rd series, xviii. 315
1889 - Assay of emetine in wine of ipecac, volumetric, with Mayer's reagent
             58, 310; Rep. de Pharm. 1890, 528.
1890 - Alkalimetric estimation of emetine. 3rd series 20. 809; Jsb. d. Pharm. 1890, 442
            Chem Centrbl. 1890, i, 881.

11. Published in The Analyst

In 1874 he joined the Society of Public Analysts. The following papers were published.
In 1879 - merioneth - became analyst for the county Medical Times & Gazette

The following papers were published.

1879 - April 10 p. 93/94 -Letter to editor re: Permangate process of Professor Tidy
1880 - Effect of Light on some Reagents and Chemical Compounds - April v.5 p.79b-81
            as Read to S.P.A. 17th March 1880      Letter to Editor by Arthur Downes!
1881 - Note on: Williams' Nitrogen Process v6, p202
1882 - Note on Use of Platinic Chloride as an Indicator in Determination of Free Iodine
            v7 p135/136 Read to S.P.A. June 28th
1884 - Letter to Editor on- Ferrocyanide Test for Zinc v 9, p 232.
1888 - Determining the Fixed Acids in Butter and Margarine v13, June, p110-111
1891 - Note on Tabarie's Process for the Indirect Estimination of Alcohol v16.p221-224
1896 - Note on Ginger Dec. v21, p309
1923 - Note on Separation of Arsenic v48, issue 573, p. 596
1926 - The Analysis of Commercial Lime issue 609 51, 625

Some full papers can be downloaded here:


13. Published in The Pharmaceutical Journal and Transactions
1864 - July 4 Emplastrum Hydrargyri v6 p56/57
1865 - April 4 Preparation of Liquor Bismuthi v6 613/314
May 1865
1866 - April 17Method of recovering Bismuth from solution v7 p619
1880 - Jan 31- *Dr. A. Downes quoted  2, v10 p 602

1888- Jan 21 A function of Chloraphyll p 620
1890 April 5 An Attempt to Determine " Emetine" by Alkalimetric Titration 2, xx. 809
1891 - May 16 Preliminary Examination 3, v21 p1034
1896 - June 9 Water Analysis

British Medical Journal - July 15 1871 On the theory of Disinfectants
Page1   Page2

British Medical Journal - Feb 22 1873 Note on the Chemical History of the Eruption Sometimes following the Administration of Chloral HERE

*There are many publications quoting snippets of Dr. Downes M.B. M.D. work with disease, the poor and infirm but they aren't accessible to link as yet. I'll add more found papers of Dr. H. Downes' individual work as I find them.
1886- Jan 14 On the Action of Sunlight on Micro-organisms, &c, with a Demonstration   of the Influence of Diffused Light." By Arthur Downes, M.D. Communicated by   Professor Marshall, F.R.S. Received December 9, 1885. Paper
The Practioner
1886  abstract of a report on a localised recurrence of Dyptheria v35 p383-390
The Chemical News
1876 Pamphlet How to Avoid Typhoid Fever and Allied Diseases ( with Plain Rules on House Drainage, etc. )

The Essex Naturalist
“ Notes on the Geology of the District around
Chelmsford, with a List of the Mollusca. from the Alluvium of Roxwell, Essex."
vIll." Lecture on Bacteria"

As Medical Inspector Quoted in this publication re: Workhouse System




14.confirming crime as county analyst

15. 1890 Stereo-Chemical Theories Paper by TP Blunt praises Le Bel and Van 't Hoff.

16. The Theory of Disinfectants ( 1871 ) also read in 1865

17. New find: British Medical Journal 1873
Note on the chemical history of the eruption sometimes following the administration of chloral.*

18. New York Times "scientific gossip" August 29, 1880

19. On the Influence of Light upon Protoplasm (1878)Authors: ARTHUR DOWNES, MD, and THOMAS P. BLUNT, MA Oxon - Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Volume 28, p199- 212

20. Working on the Influence of Light on Bacteria
Nature Publishing Group - 1877 - Science & a followup publication in the Journal of Materia Medica - 1878

21. T.P. Blunt - British Flora Botany    Flora of Shrewsbury

22. Chaired the Caradoc and Severn Valley Field Club

23. N. D. Simpson's Bibliographic Index to the British Flora (1960)
Church Stretton illustrated; E. S. Cobbold 1903; ii, 1905; iii, 1908-9; iv, 1911-12; v, 1916; vi, ; vii, 1933; viii, 1928;

24. Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturists
Curator, Botanical Section, Shrewsbury Museum & cites publications above
another link to the publication here

25. Report on content of Sutton Spa waters 1893
by T. P. Blunt, M.A., F.I.C., F.C.S.
Analysis content in Milk

Thomas Porter Blunt and his son Thomas Gaire Rockstro Blunt
Universtity of Oxford Allumni


Thomas Blunt Sr. was also a chemist in Wyle Cop in business with his brother Henry, then Joseph Birch Salter, then his son Thomas Porter Blunt. Quote Darwin Correspondence regarding: Thomas Porter's father: "Thomas Blunt (Sr.) Shrewsbury chemist, believed by the Darwins to be the "best chemist in the world"
There were many Blunt chemists, and I haven't joined all the dots as yet, but here is the Blunt family of Chemists page

Many special thanks to Thomas (Tom) Tidwell of Toronto for the recognition within this century, of the forward-thinking discoveries achieved by Downes and Blunt.
Faculty profile - Professor of Chemistry University of Toronto
Page re: his latest article Sunlight & Free Radicals

T P Blunt - shrewsbury scientist
The Scientist's

also: Thomas Porter Blunt Obituary by Obit by Harold Lowe


This site honours Thomas P. Blunt, brilliant scientist, chemist, county analyst and amateur botanist. His co-discovery with Arthur Downes in 1877, of the effect of Light upon Bacteria and other Organisms, pioneered further inventions & related discoveries in this field of science.

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Mr. Thomas Porter Blunt -Shrewsbury Shropshire  1842 - 1929


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