24th February 2005. What Happened to Milk of Magnesia?

Today in 2005 a Blue Plaque  was unveiled in High Street, Belfast on the site once the home of physician Sir James Murray (1788-1871).


Plaque to Murray in Belfast near to where his original premises were sited.

It was in 1829 that Murray used a condensed solution of fluid Magnesia, of his own design, to treat the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Marquis of Anglesey of stomach pain. The fluid was patented two years after his death.

Murray developed the foundations of the fluid which base ingredient was Magnesium Sulfate, long known for its digestion benefits, as an aid to constipation and sold as a palatable laxative.

However Murray had difficulty protecting his rights as these obtained only in the British Empire with the result his assistant Dinneford benefited financially after Murray’s death, in popularising the formula.

Brighton Museum ad.

Courtesy Brighton Museum

1954 ad

1954 advert.





There were many competitors in marketing Magnesia which involved the suspension of Magnesium Hydroxide (Mg (OH)2) in water, one of the main brands being sold under the name of Phillips ‘Milk of Magnesia’ in 1872.(1)

‘Magnesia’ as a laxative effectively aids the absorption of water or saline into the intestine from the blood, which increase of water content of undigested food acts as a flushing medium.

Then Magnesium Hydroxide when used as Milk of Magnesia, being an Alkaline, acts as an Antacid by neutralising the excess stomach Hydrochloric Acid. (2)










In 2013 the European Union was concerned about excessive Sulfate in Milk of Magnesia causing Smith Klein Beecham to review its product.

(1) Charles Henry Phillips who coined the term Milk of Magnesia in the 19th century in 1872.

Antacid tablets are made from weak Base Alkalis which are also used in toothpaste and baking powder.

Ref: advertisingarchives.co.uk. 1950.s.

Ref: historyworld.co.uk.

Ref: wikipedia.org. magnesium_hydroxide.

Ref: brightonmuseum.org.

Ref: gracesguide.dinnefords.

Ref: bbc.co.uk.northern-ireland/news 25.2.2005.Pic of plaque.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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