Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Frederick Moore Clements (1859–1920)

by Gregory Haines

This article was published:

Frederick Moore Clements (1859-1920), pharmacist and manufacturing chemist, was born on 14 March 1859 at Witton, Erdington, Warwickshire, England, son of James Moore Clements, master tailor, and his wife Matilda, née Williams. He was educated at Birmingham where he was later apprenticed to a chemist. Strong links bound him to the area throughout his life.

In 1880 Clements visited South Africa and next year, while working in a pharmacy at Port Elizabeth, he 'discovered' the formula for 'Clements Tonic'. There he met another English pharmacist, T. B. Melhuish, later a prominent manufacturer in Sydney of galenicals and simple tonics; Clements followed him to Sydney in 1881 and worked in his pharmacy. In October 1884 Clements passed the Board of Pharmacy's qualifying examination and was elected to the Pharmaceutical Society of New South Wales. Two years later he opened the shop in Newtown where he began to manufacture his tonic. In its original form it was similar to the common compound syrup of hypophosphites which Melhuish was marketing within the trade; but Clements's tonic, a veritable 'twin brother of health and strength', enjoyed far greater commercial success because he advertised it widely as a splendid cure for many ailments—'Nervous Breakdown in particular'. In 1894, despite the depression, he sold his pharmacy and opened a factory next door to his rambling Stanmore residence, Brahea, for the production of his tonic, 'Fletchers Pills' and 'Clements Certain Cure'. In 1905 he sold most of his interests in these nostrums to Elliott Bros Ltd, believing, incorrectly, that he retained certain rights.

In his retirement Clements travelled and indulged his many scientific interests. He had 'a good knowledge of medicinal plants', and his garden, with a catalogue of some 800 names, contained many rare plants and well-stocked aviaries. He also had an 'Electrical Laboratory' and proclaimed himself a 'Medical Electrician. Registered Dentist. Pharmacist and Theraputist. X Ray and Finsen Light Operator. Etc. Etc. Etc.' A former business associate, on seeing his book Some Faces and Phases of Clem (Sydney, 1921 commented: 'People who did not know him would suspect him of being a gentleman'. Apart from local pharmaceutical bodies, he also belonged to the Linnean Society of New South Wales, although he never attended its meetings; he was a freeman of the City of London (1910), and a fellow of the Zoological (1910), Linnean (1917) and Royal Geographical (1919) societies of London.

During World War I Clements gave generously to patriotic funds in Australia and overseas. He died a bachelor at Brahea on 17 August 1920 of Bright's disease and diabetes and was buried in the Anglican section of the Waverley cemetery. His Australian estate was valued for probate at £87,980; this and his English estate formed the F. M. Clements Trust for the benefit of charities in England, including the Blue Coat School, London, which had produced several of Sydney's early pharmacists. His library went to the local Linnean Society. His will was disputed in the Supreme Court by his sister Edith. He had disinherited her in 1920, and then arranged to leave her £150 a year 'until her death or until she makes complaint of or finds fault with or abuses me'. He was more generous with his English relations and friends.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Haines, The Grains and Threepenn'orths of Pharmacy (Melb, 1976)
  • Chemist and Druggist of Australasia, 1 Nov 1886
  • Pharmaceutical Journal of Australasia, July 1891
  • Linnean Society of London, Proceedings, 133 (1920-21)
  • Australasian Pharmaceutical Notes and News, Oct 1920
  • Linnean Society of New South Wales, Proceedings, 46 (1921).

Citation details

Gregory Haines, 'Clements, Frederick Moore (1859–1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 14 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


14 March, 1859
Witton, Erdington, Warwickshire, England


17 August, 1920 (aged 61)
Stanmore, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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