Professor Pybus and the Origins of Lucozade – October 2013

Short description of Pybus’ involvement in the production and use of Lucozade at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in 1908 (Pybus (Professor Frederick) Archive, FP/3/1/3)

Esteemed surgeon and Emeritus Professor Frederick Charles Pybus (1883-1975), is perhaps best known to Newcastle University as a collector, donating his internationally significant library of some 2000 books on the history of medicine to the library in 1965. This remains one of Special Collections’ most impressive and prestigious resources of rare and unique published material, dating from the 15th Century with particular reference to anatomy, surgery and medical illustration and including influential works by luminaries such as William Harvey and Andreas Vesalius.

Photograph of Frederick Charles Pybus, c.1905 (Professor Frederick) Archive, FP/3/4/32)

But Pybus himself is also remembered as a giant of the medical community and an influential figure both locally and nationally. A graduate of the Newcastle College of Medicine gaining his MS (Masters in Surgery) in 1910, Pybus’ long and varied career and lifelong associations with the Royal Victoria Infirmary and Newcastle University meant he is remembered as an authoritative voice on cancer research, surgical education and paediatrics. What is perhaps more surprising, and a story which has almost passed into folklore, is his hand in the creation of a household name; the energy drink Lucozade.

Pybus himself explains this story in this note present in his papers, which were donated shortly after his books. He describes how, during his student days working as a House-Surgeon at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in 1908, he lost a young patient following a seemingly successful operation. It was felt that this was because the child was starved, leading to them not being able to break down the chloroform used as an anaesthetic and resulting in a slow poisoning of the liver. This tragic event clearly affected the young Pybus and when he became surgeon at the Fleming Memorial Hospital for Sick Children following his graduation, he made sure patients drank a glucose drink he devised prior to surgery and when they had a fever to stop this happening again.

An enterprising chemist in Barras Bridge called William Owen provided the ingredients as a prescription, but noticing its popularity started making it himself and indeed perfected the recipe, with Pybus admitting his had “a taste of sulphur bi-oxide which most glucose had in order to prevent fermentation”.

Owen called this drink Glucozade, but, in 1938, Beecham pharmaceutical company realised the commercial potential and bought the formulae for the then princely sum of “about £10,000”, and Lucozade was born. Pybus admits in this note that although he had no share in this “I sometimes wish I had”. However, it was clearly a comfort that, in respect of the child that died, Pybus felt on his wards the Lucozade prototype “prevented this happening so far as I know for ever afterwards”.

Page from Opera chirurgica by John Arderne (c.1380) – May 2011

Page from Opera chirurgica showing marginalia illustrations and illuminated lettering
Page from Opera chirurgica (Pybus (Professor Frederick) Collection, Pybus, Pyb. C.v.5)

Pybus Collection: Pyb C.v.5

John Arderne (1307-1380) practised as a surgeon in Newark and London and earned himself great renown particularly for his medical works, written in Latin despite his lack of a university education. Arderne was typical of medical practitioners in the Fourteenth Century – embracing medical advances, pioneering new methods and referencing the likes of Hippocrates, Galen and Avicenna yet harking back to the Anglo-Saxons’ astrological approaches to medicine.

Page from Opera chirurgica showing marginalia illustrations
Page from Opera chirurgica showing marginalia illustrations (Pybus (Professor Frederick) Collection, Pybus, Pyb. C.v.5)

Arderne’s manuscripts were commonly illustrated, both to show techniques and remedies, and to aid the reader in navigating a potentially confusing text. This manuscript, written in Latin but including some passages in French near the beginning, has been illustrated with pictures of operations, instruments, plants, blazons, &c.

The manuscript was formerly part of the private collection of Professor Pybus (1883-1975) who donated his history of medicine books, engravings, portraits, busts, bleeding bowls and research notes to the University Library in 1965. The manuscript now bears his presentation bookplate but there is further evidence of provenance: it has been inscribed by W. Harrysson, Silvester Rowlestone, Sarah Ridall, Mary [Riddall?], Richard Pearson, Mster [sic] Rutter and Christopher Wainman.

Roughly contemporaneous with Arderne’ manuscripts, is Chaucer’ Canterbury Tales, the Prologue of which contains the following depiction of a physician grounded in astronomy, led by ancient classical texts, dressed in taffeta and silk, with a penchant for gold:

With us ther was a Doctour of Phisike;
In all this world ne was ther non him like
To speke of phisike and of surgerie,
For he was grounded in astronomie.
He kept his patient a ful gret del
In houres by his magike naturel:
Wel coude he fortunen the ascendant
Of his images for his patient.
    He knew the cause of every maladie,
Were it of cold, or hote, or moist, or drie,
And wher engendred, and of what humour:
He was a veray parfite practisour.
The cause yknowe, and of his harm the rote,
Anon he gave to the sike man his bote.
Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries
To send him dragges and his lettuaries,
For eche of hem made other for to winne:
His friendship n’s not newe to beginner.
Wewl knew he the old Esculapius,
And Dioscorides and eke Rufus,
Old Hippocras, Hali, and Gallien,
Serapion, Rafis, and Avicen,
Averrois, Damascene, and Constantin,
Bernard, and Gatisden, and Gilbertin.
Of his diete mesurable was he,
For it was of no superfluitee,
But of gret nourishing, and digestible:
His studie was but little on the Bible.
In sanguine and in perse he clad was alle
Lined with taffeta and with sendalle.
And yet he was but esy of dispence;
He kepte that he wan in the pestilence;
For gold in phisike is a cordial,
Therfore he loved gold in special.

Extract from The Poetical Works of Geoff. Chaucer …
(Edinburgh: At the Apollo Press by the Martins, 1782) Vol. 1.
(White (Robert) Collection W821.17 CHA)