Dimsdale, Thomas, Baron

, a celebrated inoculator for the small pox, was the son of John Dimsdale of Theydon Gernon, near Epping in Essex, a surgeon and apothecary, by Susan, daughter of Thomas Bowyer of Alburyhall, in the parish of Albury, near Hertford. He was born in 1712, and received his first medical knowledge from his father, and at St. Thomas’s hospital. He commenced practice at Hertford about 1734, where he married the only daughter of Nathaniel Brassey, esq. of Roxford, an eminent banker in London. This lady died in 1744, leaving no children and to relieve his mind under this loss, | Mr. Dimsdale joined the medical staff of the duke of Cumberland’s army, then on its way to suppress the rebellion in Scotland. In this situation he remained until the surrender of Carlisle to the king’s forces, when he received the duke’s thanks, and returned to Hertford. In 1746 he married Anne lies, a relation of his first wife, and by her fortune, and that which he acquired by the death of the widow of sir John Dimsdale of Hertford, he was enabled to retire from practice; but his family becoming numerous, he resumed it, and took the degree of M. D. in 1761.

Having fully satisfied himself about the new method of treating persons under inoculation for the small-pox, he published his treatise on the subject in 1766, which was soon circulated over the continent, and translated into all languages. His particular opinion may be learned from the conclusion, in which he says that, “although the whole process may have some share in the success, it consists chiefly in the method of inoculating with recent fluid matter, and the management of the patients at the time of eruption.” This proof of his professional knowledge occasioned his being invited to inoculate the empress Catherine of Russia, and her son, in 1768, of which he gives a very particular and interesting account in his “Tracts on Inoculation,” printed in 1781. Never, perhaps, did the empress display her courage and good sense to more advantage than in submitting to an operation, of which she could have no experience in her own country, and where at that time it was the subject of uncommon dread and alarm. Nor was her liberal conduct towards Dr. Dimsdale less praiseworthy. He was immediately appointed actual counsellor of state and physician to her imperial majesty, with an annuity of 500l. the rank of a baron of the Russian empire, to descend to his eldest son, and a black wing of the Russian eagle in a gold shield in the middle of his arms, with the customary helmet, adorned with the baron’s coronet, over the shield. He also received at the same time, the sum of 10,000l., and 2000l. for travelling charges, and miniature pictures of the empress and her son, &c. The baron now inoculated great numbers of people at Petersburgh and Moscow; but resisted the empress’s invitation to reside as her physician in Russia. He and his son. Dr. Nath. Dimsdale, were afterwards admitted to a private audience of Frederick III. king of Prussia, at Sans Souci, and thence returned to England, and for some time | the baron resumed practice at Hertford. In 1776, he published “Thoughts on general and partial Inoculation,” 8vo; and two years after, “Observations on the Introduction to the plan of the Dispensary for general Inoculation,” 8vo. This involved him in a controversy with Dr. Lettsom, in which he opposed the above plan for inoculating the poor at their own houses; and opened an inoculation-house, under his own direction, for persons of all ranks in the neighbourhood of Hertford, which was resorted to with success. His controversy with Dr. Lettsom was carried on in the following pamphlets “Dr. Lettsom’s letter on General Inoculation” “Remarks on Ditto,” 8vo; “Review of Dr. Lettsom’s observations on the Baron’s Remarks” “Letter to Dr. Lettsom on his Remarks, &c.” “Answer to Baron Dimsdale’s Review,” and “Considerations on the plan, &c.” In 1781 he printed the “Tracts on Inoculation,” already mentioned, which were liberally distributed, but not sold.

Bar.on Dimsdale afterwards opened a banking-house in Cornhill, in partnership with his sons, and the Barnards, which still flourishes under the firm of Barnard, Dimsdale, and Dimsdale. In 1779 he lost his second wife, by whom he had seven children, and afterwards married Elizabeth, daughter of William Dimsdale of Bishops- Stortford, who survived him. In 1780 he was elected representative for the borough of Hertford, and declined all practice, except for the relief of the poor. He went, however, once more to Russia, in 1781, where he inoculated the present emperor and his brother Constantino; and as he passed through Brussels, the late emperor of Germany, Joseph, received him with great condescension. In 1790 he resigned his seat in parliament, and passed some winters at Bath; but at length fixed altogether at Hertford, where he died Dec. 30, 1800. His remains were interred in the Quakers’ burying-ground at Bishops- Stortford. His family were originally quakers. 1


Gent. Mag. vol. LXXl. 88, 209, 669.