Robert Perceval was born near Finglas in Dublin on 30 September 1756. He was the youngest son of a Dublin barrister William Perceval. Although sometimes wrongly accredited as the creator of soda water he is recognised as one of Ireland’s most talented chemists, becoming Trinity College’s first Professor of Chemistry.
Throughout his school years he stood out as being particularly bright and entered Trinity College Dublin at the age of 16. After graduating with a B.A. he went to Edinburgh to study medicine where his teachers included the distinguished chemists William Cullen and Joseph Black. Having completed his M. D. degree he began a European tour eventually settling in Switzerland for a time where he visited and observed the practices of numerous hospitals and laboratories. He did not return to Dublin until late in 1782.
In 1793 he took up a post as lecturer in chemistry in Trinity College. For the next two years he was extremely active and involved in scientific matters. He became a founding member of the Royal Irish Academy and its first secretary. He later became Trinity College’s first ever Professor of Chemistry. He was the first Irish physician to introduce the use of carbonated water for medicinal purposes after its creation by Manchester apothecary Thomas Henry in the 1770s.
As time went on he became more and more involved in medical practice as we can see from some of the entries for him in our family history records. In the first of our entries he is listed as a member of The Royal Dublin Society in The Gentlemen's and Citizen's Almanack 1814: