Hales, Stephen

, an eminent natural philosopher, particularly distinguished by his experiments on the physiology of plants, was the sixth son of Thomas Hales, esq. of Beakeborn, or Beckesbourn, Kent, and grandson of sir Robert Hales, bart. of Beckesbourn, where he was born, Sept. 17, 1677, and was admitted a pensioner of Bene’t college, Cambridge, under the tuition of Mr. Moss, June 19, 1696, where, after taking his first degree in arts, he was admitted a fellow, Fob. 25, 1702-3. He proceeded M. A. at the next commencement, and was admitted B. D. in 1711. The degree of D. D. was conferred on him by the university of Oxford in 1733. Botany and anatomy formed his studies of relaxation while at Cambridge, his companion in which was the celebrated antiquary Dr. Stukeley. He was advanced successively to the perpetual curacy of Teddington, Middlesex, and to the livings of Portlock, Somersetshire, and Farringdon, Hampshire. He married Mary, the daughter and heiress of Dr. Henry | Newce of Much-Hadham, in the county of Hertford, and rector of Halisham in Sussex. This lady died at the end of two years, leaving no issue, nor did he ever marry strain. He resided to the end of his life at Teddington, wliere he was visited by persons of rank and taste, amongst others by Frederick late prince of Wales, after whose death Dr. Hales was made clerk of the closet to the princess dowager, who always entertained a high respect for him, and after his decease erected a handsome monument to his memory in Westminster-abbey, near that of Handel. On this is liis bust in a large medallion, supported by a female figure representing Botany, accompanied by Religion. The epitaph is in Latin. He refused a canonry 01 Windsor, that he migbt continue to devote himself to his parochial duties, and his favourite scientific pursuits; and as piety, truth, and virtue were the principles of his character, he lived in universal esteem to the age of eighty-four, dying at Teddington, January 4, 1761, where he was buried, under the church tower, which he had rebuilt at his own expence.

Dr. Hales, having been elected a fellow of the royal society in 1717, communicated to that learned body his first essay in Vegetable Physiology, containing an account of some experiments concerning the effect of the sun’s heat in raising the sap. In 1727 appeared the first edition of his “Vegetable Staticks,” in 8vo, illustrated by plates, of which a second edition was published in 1731, followed afterwards by several others. This work was translated into French by Buffon in 1735, and into Italian by a Neapolitan lady named Ardinghelli, in 1756. There are also German and Dutch editions. The original book was, in fact, the first volume of a work entitled “Statical Essays,” of which the second, relating to the circulation of the blood in animals, was called “Hemastaticks,” and came out in 1733. In this the subject of the urinary calculus also is treated chemically and medically. With a laudable view of preventing as well as curing, the sufferings and crimes of his fellow-creatures, this good man published anonymously “a friendly admonition to the drinkers of gin, brandy, and other spirituous liquors,” which has often been reprinted and distributed gratis, by those who consider the temporal and eternal interests of their fellow subjects rather than the increase of the revenue. His invention of a ventilator for mines, prisons, hospitals, and the | holds of ships, laid before the royal society in 1741, and applied also to the ventilation and consequent preservation of corn in granaries, has proved one of the most extensively useful contrivances for the preservation of health and human life. His philosophy was not a barren accumulation for the ignorant to wonder at, or for its professor to repose on in sottish self-sufficiency and uselessness; but an inexhaustible bank, on which his piety and his benevolence were continually drawing. Such philosophy and such learning alone entitle their possessors to authority or respect, and such are the best fruits of religion. In this instance at least they were duly honoured, both at home and abroad. The fame of Hales was widely diffused throughout the learned world, of which he received a most distinguished testimony, in being elected one of the eight foreign members of the French academy of sciences, in 1753, in the place of sir Hans Sloane, who died that same year. In 1732 he had been appointed, by the British government, a trustee for settling a colony in Georgia. He was well acquainted with Mr. Ellis, and other naturalists of his day, with whose views and pursuits of all kinds he ardently concurred; but it does not appear that his foreign correspondence was extensive. His name does not occur among the correspondents of Haller, who nevertheless held him in the highest estimation, as a philosopher and a man. As a vegetable physiologist, Dr. Hales is entitled to the highest honour. His experiments and remarks led the way to those of Du Hamel, Bonnet, and all that have followed. His accuracy of observation, and fidelity of relation, have never been impeached, and his ideas in physics, in many instances, went before the knowledge of his day, and anticipated future discoveries: such are his observations relative to airs, and to vegetable secretions. One of his more able successors in the study of vegetable physiology has doubted the accuracy of one of his plates only, tab. 11, in which three trees, having been united by engrafting their branches, the intermediate one, by the earth being removed from its roots, is left hanging in the air, but an experiment of the late Dr. Hope’s at Edinburgh, upon three willows, of which Dr. Smith was an eye-witness, and which was conducted with success in imitation of this of Hales, puts his account beyond all doubt whatever. 1

1 Masters’s Hist, of C. C. C. C. Annual Register, 1764. Rees’s Cyclopædia. Gent. Ma S vol. LXIX, Butler’s Life of Hildesley, p. 362, Lysons’s environs, vol. III.
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