Percival, Thomas

, an eminent physician, was born at Warrington, September 29, 1740. Having lost both his parents in one day, he was placed at the age of four years under the protection of his uncle, Dr. Thomas Percival, a learned physician, resident at the same place; but of his parental guidance he was also deprived at the age of ten, after which his education was directed with the most kind and judicious attention by his eldest sister. His literary pursuits commenced at a private school in the neighbourhood of Warrington, whence he was removed, at the age of eleven, to the free grammar-school of that town, where he exhibited great promise of talent, and much industry. In 1757 he became one of the first pupils of a dissenting academy then established at Warrington, where he pursued with unabating diligence the classical studies in which he had already made considerable progress, and in particular had attained, great facility and elegance in Latin composition, The study of ethics, however, appears to have principally engaged his attention here, as it did afterwards throughout the whole of -his life, and formed the basis of all his works, except those on professional subjects. It appears that before Mr. Perceval went to Warrington academy, his family was induced to quit communion with the church of England, and to espouse the tenets of protestant dissent. This was in one respect peculiarly unfortunate for him who had thoughts of entering the university of Oxford; but now, after studying the thirty-nine articles, he determined against subscription, and consequently relinquished the advantages of academical study at either English university. He therefore went in 1761 to Edinburgh, and commenced his studies in medical science, which he also carried on for a year in London. In 1765 he removed to the university of Leyden, with a view to complete his medical course, and to be ad* mitted to the degree of doctor of physic. Having accordingly defended in the public schools his inaugural | dissertation “De Frigore,” he was presented with the diploma of M. D. July 6, 1765. On his return, which was through France and Holland, at the close of the same year, he joined his family at Warrington, and soon after married Elizabeth, the daughter and only surviving child of Nathaniel Bassnett, esq. merchant, of London. In 1767 ho removed with his family to Manchester, and commenced his professional career with an uncommon degree of success,

The leisure which Dr. Percival had hitherto enjoyed, had given him the opportunity of engaging in various philosophical and experimental inquiries, relating, for the most part, to the science of physic. The “Essays” which he formed on the result of his investigations, were sometimes presented to the Royal Society, and were afterwards inserted in the volumes of its Transactions; at other times they were communicated to the public through the medium of the most current periodical journals. These miscellaneous pieces were afterwards collected, and published in one volume, under the title of “Essays medical and experimental.A second volume appeared in 1773, and a third in 1776, and were received by the learned world as the productions of a man of profound knowledge and sound judgment.

Extensive as Dr. PercivaPs practice was, he found leisure to continue those publications on which his fame is founded, and by which he was soon known throughout Europe. Among these we may mention “Observations and Experiments on the Poison of Lead,1774; “A Father’s Instructions, consisting of tales, fables, and reflections, designed to promote the love of virtue, a taste for knowledge, and an early acquaintance with the works of nature,1775. Two years after he added another volume, completing the work, which is executed in a manner excellently adapted to its object. “On the Use of Flowers of Zinc in epileptic cases” (Medical Commentaries, vol. II.) “Miscellaneous practical Observations,” (ibid. V.) “Account of the Earthquake at Manchester,' (ibid.)” The Disadvantages of early Inoculation.“” Experiments and Observations on Water.“” Moral and literary Dissertations,“1784, 8vo.” On the Roman Colonies and Stations in Cheshire and Lancashire,“(Phil. Trans. XLVII. 216.)” Account of a double Child,“(ibid. 360.)” Experiments on the Peruvian Bark, (ibid. LVII. 2^1.) “Experiment! and Observations on the Waters of Buxton and | Manche*­ter,” (ibid. LXII. 455.) On the Population of Manchester and other adjacent places,“(ibid. LXIV. 54; LXV. 322, and Supplement, LXVI. 160.)” New and cheap way of preparing Potash," (ibid. LXX. 545.)

The “Manchester Memoirs” were also frequently honoured by Dr. Percival’s communications. The society, indeed, by which they were published, derived its origin from the stated weekly meetings for conversation, which Dr. Percival held at his own house; the resort of the literary characters, the principal inhabitants, and of occasional strangers. As these meetings became more numerous, it was in time found convenient to transfer them to a tavern, and to constitute a few rules for the better direction of their proceedings. The members thus insensibly formed themselves into a club, which was supported with so much success, as at length, in 1781, to assume the title of “The Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester.” Dr. Percival was appointed joint president with James Massey, esq. and his literary contributions were frequent and valuable. When acting as president, his powers both of comprehension and discourse were sometimes called forth to considerable exercise; and perhaps on no occasion were his talents more fully exerted, than when he at once guided and systematized the topics of animated discussion. Another scheme which he patronized was for the establishment of public lectures on mathematics, the fine arts, and commerce, somewhat in the manner of the institutions lately attempted in London; but that of Manchester, after two winters of unfavourable trial, was at length reluctantly abandoned, and those of the metropolis have not yet much to T)oast on the score of encouragement or utility. Dr. Percival experienced two other disappointments, in his endeavours to support the dissenting academy at Warrington, and to establish one at Manchester in its room, neither of which schemes was found practicable.

Dr. Percival died of an acute disease on August 30, 1804, in the sixty-fourth year of his age, universally respected and regretted. His works were collected and published in 1807, 4 vols. 8vo, by one of his sons, with a very interesting biographical memoir, from which we have borrowed the preceding particulars. For what follows of Dr. Perceval’s character, we are principally indebted to Dr. Magee, of Trinity college, Dublin.

"The character of Dr. Percival was in every way | calculated to secure for him that eminence in his profession, and that general respect, esteem, and attachment, which he every where obtained. A q:iick penetration, a discriminating judgment, a patient attention, a comprehensive knowledge, and, above all, a solemn sense of responsibility, were the endowments which so conspicuously fitted him at once to discharge the duties, and to extend the boundaries, of the healing art; and his external accomplishments and manners were alike happily adapted to the offices of his profession. In social discussion, he possessed powers of a very uncommon stamp, combining the accuracy of science, and the strictest precision of method, with the graces of a copious and unstudied elocution; and to these was superadded the polish of a refined urbanity, the joint result of innate benevolence, and of early and habitual intercourse with the most improved classes of society. In few words, he was an author without vanity, a philosopher without pride, a scholar without pedantry, and a Christian without guile. Affable in his manners, courteous in his conversation, dignified in his deportment, cheerful in his temper, warm in his affections, steady in his friendships, mild in his resentments, and unshaken in his principles; the grand object of his life was usefulness, and the grand spring of all his actions was religion.

As a literary character, Dr. Percival held a distinguished rank. His earlier publications were devoted to medical, chemical, and philosophical inquiries, which he pursued extensively, combining the cautious but assiduous employment of experiment, with scientific observation, and much literary research. His ‘ Essays Medical and Experimental,* obtained for the author a considerable reputation in the philosophical world, and have gone through many editions. The subjects which occupied his pen, in later years, were of a nature most congenial to his feelings; and in the several volumes of ’ A Father’s Instructions to his Children,‘ and of ’ Moral Dissertations,‘ which appeared at different periods, through a space of twentyfive years, and which were originally conceived with the design of exciting in the hearts of his children a desire of knowledge and a love of virtue, there is to be found as much of pure style, genuine feeling, refined taste, apt illustration, and pious reflection, as can easily be discovered, in the same compass, in any didactic composition. His last work, which he expressly dedicated as a ’ | parental legacy* to a much-loved son, under the title of *‘ Medical Ethics, or a Code of Institutes and Precepts, adapted to the professional conduct of physicians and surgeons,’ published in 1803, is a monument of his professional integrity, in which, while he depicted those excellencies of the medical character which he approved in theory, he unconsciously drew the portrait of himself, and described those which he every day exemplified in practice.1

1 Life prefixed to his Works. —Gent. Mag. 1804.