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Born in Islington, London, he was descended from Raphael Meldola (1754–1828), a theologian who was acting minister of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews in London, 1804. Meldola was the only son of Samuel Meldola; married (1886) Ella Frederica, daughter of Dr Maurice Davis MD of London. He was educated in chemistry at the Royal College of Chemistry, London. There is a portrait of Meldola (oil on canvas) by Solomon J. Solomon in the Royal Society collection; also a photograph by Maull & Fox, visiting card size.
Meldola worked in the private laboratory of John Stenhouse (FRS 1848). He was appointed Lecturer, Royal College of Science (1872) and assisted Norman Lockyer with spectroscopy. Meldola was in charge of the British Eclipse Expedition to the Nicobar Islands (1875) and was Professor of Chemistry, Technical College, Finsbury (1885). He was also an entomologist and natural historian.
Meldola was a member of many scientific societies: Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society; Fellow of the Institute of Chemistry; Fellow of the Chemical Society (London and Berlin); Member of the Pharmaceutical Society; The Geologists Association; The Royal Anthropological Institute; Entomological Society of London. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1886 (Charles Darwin was one of his proposers), awarded the Davy Medal in 1913, and was Vice-President of the Council from 1914-1915.
Meldola was President of the Entomological Society, 1895–1897; the Chemical Society, 1905–1907; Society of Dyers and Colourists, 1907–1910; Society of Chemical Industry 1908-1909; Institute of Chemistry, 1912-1915. He was the first president of the Maccabaeans, 1891-1915. In his honour the Royal Society of Chemistry award the Meldola medal each year.
He was the inventor of Meldola's Blue dye.
- National Portrait Gallery, London
- "Meldola, Raphael". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). 1922.