Beddoes, Thomas

, M. D. a gentleman of Welch extraction, was born at Shiffnall in Shropshire, April 15,1760, where he received the first rudiments of his education, but was soon removed to the school of Brewood in Staffordshire. He very early displayed a thirst for knowledge, and, as is frequently the case, appears to have been determined rather by accident than design to that pursuit in which he was afterwards most distinguished. From Brewood he was removed to the grammar-school at Bridgenorth, which he quitted at the age of thirteen. His manners and habits at school were particular, but study and the desire of knowledge were predominant. He seemed early to give way to deep thought and reflection; and this, added to a natural shyness of disposition, gave him an air of reserve, which distinguished him from his young associates. In May 1773, he was placed under the tuition of the Rev. Sam. Dickenson, rector of Blym-hill in Staffordshire, who supplied his biographer with some particulars of his character highly creditable to him. In 1776 he was entered of Pembroke college, Oxford, where he applied himself with remarkable industry and diligence to the study of modern languages, chemistry, mineralogy, and botany. In 1781, he visited | the metropolis, and studied anatomy; and in the course of these studies he undertook to translate the works of Spallanzani, which appeared in 1784. It is also thought that he supplied the notes to Dr. Cullen’s edition of Bergman’s Physical and Chemical Essays. In 1783, he took the degree of M. A. and the following year went to Edinburgh, where he distinguished himself, not only as a member, but for some time as president of the royal medical and natural history societies. In 1786 he returned to Oxford, and took his doctor’s degree; and the same year he visited the continent, on his return from which he was appointed to the chemical lectureship at Oxford, in which situation he distinguished hiuisrlf much, and was generally attended by a numerous auditory. Mineralogy at this time appears to have occupied much of his attention: his theory of the earth being, according to his biographer, conformable to that of Hutton; but at this time he was rather hasty in his conclusions, and would frequently acknowledge that he had been misled in the judgment he had formed of certain, ibssus, especially in regard to the operations of fire. Of this a singular instance has been given. A gentleman had Jbr ught to Oxford, from the summit of one of the mountains surrounding Coniston lake in Lancashire, some specimens which had evidently undergone the operation of fire, but which happened to abound near a hollow on the top of the mountain, which some Italian gentlemen had not long before pronounced to be the crater of an extinct volcano. Upon shewing them to Dr. Beddoes, he was so persuaded of the fact, that he even summoned a particular assembly of the members of ]the university by an extraordinary notice, before whom he delivered a long lecture on the specimens supplied, as indicative of the natural operations of fire in those parts of England. A very short time after, he declared that they were evidently nothing better than mere slags from some old furnace, and that he had since discovered a criterion by which he could distinguish between the productions of natural and artificial fire; but this discovery, and the consequent change of his sentiments, he could not be prevailed on to announce as publicly as he had delivered his former opinions.

At this time nothing seemed to interest him more than the account of the two Giants Causeways, or groups of prismatic basaltine columns, in the Venetian states, in Italy, in the LXVth volume of the Philosophical Transactions, | communicated by Mr. Strange, long his majesty’s resident at Venice. Dr. Beddoes’s retirement from Oxford, about 1792, was accelerated by his intemperance in politics, occasioned by the remarkable circumstances of the times. In the following year he removed to Bristol, where he began that career of medical and physiological researches, experiments, and lectures, which made him so generally conspicuous, and which appear to have continued with the most striking zeal and perseverance to the last moment of his short life, varied according to circumstances, but never wholly abandoned. In 1798, his Pneumatic Institution was opened, which very much excited the attention of the puhlic, although its practical effects were not correspondent to the high expectations entertained. Various publications came from his pen in rapid succession, until 1808, when he was seized with a disorder which proved fatal, Dec. 24, of that year. This, which was a dropsy of the chest, he had mistaken for a hepatic disorder. His character, as given by his learned and affectionate biographer, is highly favourable, but it presents two subjects of regret, the one that he should have thought it necessary to waste so much time on the fleeting politics of the day; the other, that in his many schemes and experimental researches, he was precipitate and unsteady. He was undoubtedly capable of great things, but too hurried, too sanguine, too unconscious of the lapse of time, and too little aware of the want of opportunity for any one man to accomplish any very numerous ends, either of invention or reformation. The learned world had reason to lament his early death, because age might have corrected those blemishes or eccentricities of his character, which prevented his doing justice, even to his own designs and his own powers. Had he been less impetuous, less sanguine, and more capable of fixing and concentrating his views, he might have accomplished much more good, and left the world much more benefited by his extraordinary labours and indefatigable diligence. Of this labour and diligence, the reader may form a correct notion by the following list of his publications. I. “Translation of Spailanzani’s dissertations on Natural History,1784, reprinted 1790. 2. “Notes to a translation of Bergman’s Physical and Chemical Essays,1784. 3. “Translation of Bergman’s essay on Elective Attractions,178,5. 4. “Translation of Scheele’s Chemical Essays,” edited and corrected by him, 1786.5. “Chemical Experiments and | Opinions extracted from a work published in the last century,” 1790. 6. Three papers in the Philosophical Trail*. eactions for 1791 and 1792, on “The affinity between Basaltes and Granite the conversion of cast into malleable i ron and second part to ditto.” 7. “Memorial addressed to the curators of the Bodleian Library,” no date. 8. “A letter to a Lady on the subject of early Instruction, partiticularly that of the poor,1792, printed but not published. 9. “Alexander’s Expedition to the Indian Ocean,” not published. 10. “Observations on the nature of demonstrative evidence, with reflections on Language,1792. 11. “Observations on the nature and cure of Calculus, Sea-scurvy, Catarrh, and Fever,1792. 12. “History of Isaac Jenkins,” a moral fiction, 1793. 13. “Letters from. Dr. Withering, Dr. E wart, Dr. Thornton, &c.1794. 14. “A Guide for self-preservation and parental affection,1794. 15. “A proposal for the improvement of Medicine,1794. 16. “Considerations on the medicinal use, and on the production of Factitious Airs:” parts I. and II. 1794, part III. 1795, and parts IV. and V, 1796. 17. “Brown’s elements of Medicine, with a preface and notes,1795. 18. “Translation from the Spanish, of Gimbernat’s new method of operating on Femoral Hernia,1795. 19. “Outline of a plan for determining the medicinal powers of Factitious Airs,1795. 20. “A word in defence of the Bill of Rights against Gagging-bills, 1795. 21.” Where would be the harm of a Speedy Peace?“1795. 22.” An essay on the public merits of Mr. Pitt,“1796. 23.A letter to Mr. Pitt on the Scarcity,“1796. 24.” Alternatives compared, or, What shall the Rich do to be safe?“25.” Suggestions towards setting on foot the projected establishment for Pneumatic Medicine,“1797. 26.” Reports relating to Nitrous Acid,“1797. 27.A lecture introductory to a popular course of Anatomy,“1797. 28.A suggestion towards an essential improvement in the Bristol Infirmary,“1798. 29.” Contributions to medical and physical knowledge from the West of England,“1799. 30.” Popular essay on Consumption,“1799. 31.” Notice of some observations made at the Pneumatic Institution,“1799. 32.A second and third Report on Nitrous Acid,“1799, 1800. 33.” Essay on the medical and domestic management of the Consumptive on Digitalis and on Scrophula,“1801. 34.Hygeia or Essays, moral and medical, on the causes affecting the personal state of | the middling and affluent classes,“1801-2. 35.” Rules of the institution for the sick and drooping Poor.“An edition on larger paper was entitled” Instruction for people of all capacities respecting their own health and that of their children,“1803. 36.” The manual of Health, or the Invalid conducted safely through the Seasons,“1806. 37.” On Fever as connected with Inflammation,“1807. 38.A letter to sir Joseph Banks, on the prevailing discontents, abuse, and imperfections in Medicine,“1808. 39.” Good advice for the Husbandman in Harvest, and for all those who labour hard in hot births; as also for others who will take it in warm weather," 1808. Besides these, Dr. Beddoes was a considerable contributor to several of the medical and literary journals. 1

1 Stock’s Life of Dr. Beddoes, 1811, 4to. Brit. Critic, vol. Xxxvh.