Lawrence, Thomas

, an eminent physician, the son of captain Thomas Lawrence of the royal navy, and grandson of Dr. Thomas Lawrence, first physician to queen Anne, was born May 25, 1711, in the parish of St. Margaret, Westminster. His mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Mr. Gabriel Soulden, merchant of Kinsale in Ireland, and widow of colonel Piers. His father’s residence being at Southampton, he was placed under the care of the rev. Mr. Kingsman, master of the free-school at that place, but had previously received some education at Dublin, where his father was in 1715. In 1727 he was entered as a commoner of Trinity college, Oxford, under the tuition of the rev. George Huddesford, afterwards president of that college; and here he pursued his studies until some time in 1734. He then removed to London, and took a lodging in the city for the convenience of attending St. Thomas’s hospital, and became a pupil of Dr. Nicholls, who was at that time reading anatomical lectures, with uncommon celebrity. Mr. Lawrence made a suitable progress under so able an instructor, and at those lectures formed many of | the friendships which he most valued during the remainder of his life; among others he became here first acquainted with Dr. Bathurst, who introduced him to the friendship of Dr. Johnson.

In 1740 he took his degree of M. D. at Oxford, and was, upon the resignation of Dr. Nicholls, chosen anatomical reader in that university, where he read lectures for some years, as he did also in London, having quitted his lodgings in the city for a house in Lincoln’s inn-fields, which had been before occupied by Dr. Nicholh, and was vacated by him upon his marriage with the daughter of Dr. Mead. On May 25, 1744, Dr. Lawrence was married to Frances, daughter of Dr. Chauncy, a physician at Derby, and took a house in Essex- street, in the Strand, where he continued to read his anatomical lectures till 1750, after which he laid them aside. He now devoted himself to his practice, which became very considerable, and which he obtained solely by the reputation of his skill and integrity, for he laboured under the disadvantage of frequent fits of deafness, and knew no art of success but that of deserving it. In the same year (1744), he was chosen fellow of the royal college of physicians in London, where he read successively all the lectures instituted in that society with great reputation, both for his professional knowledge, and for the purity and elegance of his Latin; nor did he confine himself to the oral instruction of his contemporaries, for in 1756 he published a medical disputation “De Hydrope,” and in 1759, “De Natura Musculorum prelectiones tres;” and when the College published the works of Dr. Harvey in 1766, Dr. Lawrence wrote the life which is prefixed to that edition, for which he had a compliment of 100 guineas. In 1759 he was chosen elect, and in 1767 president of the college, to which office he was re-elected for the seven succeeding years.

About 1773, Dr. Lawrence’s health began to decline, and he first perceived symptoms of that disorder on the breast which is called angina pectoris, and which continued to afflict him to the end of his life. Yet he remitted little of his attention, either to study or business; he still continued his custom of rising early, that h might secure leisure for study; and his old friend and instructor, Dr. Nicholls, dying in the beginning of 1778, he paid a tribute of friendship and gratitude to his memory by writing an account of his life, in Latin, which was printed for | private distribution in 1780, 4to. The death of his friend was soon followed by a nearer loss, in Jan. 1780, that of his wife, with whom he had lived with great happiness for above thirty-five years; and from this time his health and spirits declining more rapidly, his family prevailed on him to retire from business and London; he accordingly removed with his family to Canterbury, in 1782, and died there June 6, 1783.

By his wife he had six sons and three daughters. The deatii of one of his sons in India, in 1783, gave occasion to a very elegant Latin ode by Dr. Johnson. Another of his sons was the late sir Soulden Lawrence, one of the judges of the king’s bench; and Elizabeth, widow of George Gipps, esq. M. P. for Canterbury, is now, we believe, the only survivor of Dr. Lawrence’s family. 1


Gent. Mag. vol. LVII. Censura Literaria, vol. I. Hawkins and Boswell’s Lives of Johnson.