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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Scammell, Luther Robert (1858–1940)

by Peter Donovan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Luther Robert Scammell (1858-1940), by unknown photographer

Luther Robert Scammell (1858-1940), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 27877

Luther Robert Scammell (1858-1940), pharmaceutical manufacturer, was born on 20 March 1858 at Port Adelaide, second of twelve children of Luther Scammell, an English-born chemist, and his wife Lavinia Annette, née Bean. After attending J. L. Young's Adelaide Educational Institution, young Luther joined his father's firm, F. H. Faulding & Co., and attended chemistry classes run by the public analyst George Francis. In 1877 he travelled to England with his elder brother William to study under Dr John Muter at the South London School of Pharmacy, Kennington. He passed the examinations of the (Royal) Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, and was registered as a chemist and druggist on 30 April 1879. Having gained experience at the Public Laboratory, Kennington Cross, he returned to the family business as a manufacturing chemist and became responsible for preparing many compounds that had previously been imported.

In 1885 Scammell was elected a fellow of the Chemical Society, London. Next year he was one of two South Australian representatives at an intercolonial pharmaceutical conference, held in Melbourne. As a result of his father's disastrous pastoral and mining speculations in the 1880s, Faulding & Co. faced bankruptcy. With the Bank of Adelaide demanding the company's sale, young Luther and William acquired the manufacturing and wholesaling operations, and the business name, in 1888. The retail shops were sold to reduce the debt to the bank. On 8 August that year Scammell married 18-year-old Elizabeth Alice Gray with Unitarian forms in her father's house at Reedbeds.

Faulding & Co. expanded under the direction of the two brothers. A branch, established in Perth in 1890, thrived under the management (from 1894) of Walter Wesley Garner. He was admitted to partnership in 1899. New agencies were set up in Sydney and Melbourne. Luther took responsibility for managing the firm's affairs nationally, while William oversaw the Sydney office from 1908. Much of Faulding's success was founded on eucalyptus oil, which formed the basis of an antiseptic marketed as Solyptol. Scammell took credit for coining the name—a contraction of 'soluble eucalyptus oil'—for Faulding's eucalyptus products. Building on the work of Samuel Barbour, a Faulding chemist, he had developed a method in 1892 for determining the eucalyptol content of the oil. His test became the standard in the industry and was included in the British Pharmacopœia (1898). Solyptol soap won a gold medal at the Franco-British Exhibition in London in 1908.

Scammell and Faulding were indirectly associated with the introduction of X-ray tubes to Australia. After Barbour had returned from abroad to Adelaide with two Röntgen tubes in May 1896, he helped (Sir) William Bragg to produce X-ray pictures. Barbour left Faulding & Co. in 1897, taking the new technology with him. In 1900 the firm opened an office in London; five years later its agents operated in South Africa, India and Canada. A wide range of proprietary products was made and sold, including Pectoral Drops, Kalmint Toothpaste, Quinine and Iron Tonic Diphtheria Powder, Salts of Lemon, and Milk Emulsion. Grocery items—baking, custard and curry powders, vinegar, and cloudy ammonia—were also produced. World War I provided new opportunities, particularly for the manufacture of Epsom salts which represented Faulding's first venture into industrial chemical production.

In June 1921 Faulding & Co. became a private company, with Scammell as chairman and managing director. He continued to run the firm's affairs until 1935. Day-to-day management then passed to his elder son Alfred, but Luther remained chairman of directors until his death. Primarily concerned with fostering the business, he took little part in public life. He was a member and supporter of the Pharmaceutical Society of South Australia, but never held office. Survived by his wife and their two sons, he died on 8 April 1940 in his North Adelaide home and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • A Century of Medical Progress, 1845-1945 (Adel, 1945)
  • P. Donovan and E. Tweddell, The Faulding Formula (Adel, 1995)
  • News (Adelaide), 8 Apr 1940
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 9 Apr 1940
  • F. H. Faulding & Co Ltd records, Adelaide
  • A. M. Madden papers (State Library of South Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Peter Donovan, 'Scammell, Luther Robert (1858–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 10 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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