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Pepper, John Henry, 1821 - 1990



  • Existence: 17 June 1821 - 25 March 1900


John Henry Pepper aka Professor Pepper, was a British scientist and inventor who entertained the public, royalty and fellow scientists with a wide range of technological innovations and demonstrations.

J.H. Pepper was born on 17 June 1821 in Westminster, London. He attended King's College School, where he developed a keen interest in chemistry. In 1840 he became Assistant Lecturer in chemistry at the Grainger School of Medicine and three years later he was elected a Fellow of the Chemical Society.

Pepper delivered his first lecture at the prestigious Royal Polytechnic Institution in 1847 and a year later, at the age of twenty-seven, he was made a Lecturer. He had a great interest in education and oversaw the introduction of the Polytechnic’s famous evening lectures and by the 1850s he had become its Director.

Over the course of his career, he wrote several important science books, one of which is regarded as a significant step towards the understanding of the continental drift. He lectured regularly in some of the most prestigious academic institutions in the UK and abroad including Eton, Harrow, Haileybury, New York and Australia. He also exposed the science and mechanics behind magic tricks and spiritualism and became most famous for his ‘Pepper's ghost’, a trick that he developed with Engineer Henry Dircks. Dircks had devised a method of projecting a ghostly figure of an actor onto a stage through an optical illusion using a sheet of glass and a system of light projections. Pepper took the idea and developed it, making it famous and hereafter becoming known as Pepper’s Ghost.

Professor Pepper died on 25 March 1900.

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Bill Barnes Collection

Reference code: NFA0172
Scope and Contents

Programmes, posters and photographs mainly related to the Poole family's travelling Myriorama show.

Dates: 1881 - 2017

Colonial Hall Poster, Monday 28 October c1889 - 1895

Reference code: 178R53.28
Scope and Contents

Cardiff. The Original Pepper's Ghost and Spectral Opera Compy, Christmas Carol, Satanella, Faust, Lansashire Witches, The Flying Dutchman, The Mountain Sylph, Shadown on the Snow, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Corsican Brothers, Muddlehead in a Fix, Haunted House, Zig-Zag, Psychic Spiritmometer. Black type on white background. Printed by Theopilus Creber, Color Pinter, Union Street, Plymouth.

Dates: Monday 28 October c1889 - 1895

Posters, c1880 - 1899

Reference code: 178R53
Scope and Contents

Poster related to the Poole family film shows, Gompertz's diorama and other early cinema travelling shows and venues.

Dates: c1880 - 1899