Belchier, John

, was born in the year 1706, at Kingston in Surrey. He received his education at Eton; and discovering an inclination for surgery, was bound apprentice to Mr. Cheselden, by far the most eminent man of his profession. Under this great master, who used to say, that of all the apprentices he ever had Mr. Belchier was the most industrious and assiduous, he soon became an accurate anatomist. His preparations were esteemed next to‘ Dr. NichohVs, and allowed to exceed all others of that time. Thus qualified, his practice soon became extensive; and in 1736 he succeeded his fellow-apprentice Mr. Craddock, as surgeon to Guy’s hospital. In this situation, which afforded such ample opportunity of displaying his abilities, he, by his remarkably tender and kind attention to his pauper patients, became as eminent for his humanity as his superior skill in his profession. Like his master Cheselden, he was very reluctant before an operation, yet quite as successful as that great operator. He was particularly expert in the reduction of the humerus; which, though a very simple operation, is frequently productive of great trouble to the surgeon, as well as excruciating pain to the patient. Being elected fellow of the royal society, he communicated to that learned body several curious cases that fell within his cognizance; particularly a remarkable case | of an hydrops ovarii, published in the Philosophical Transactions, No. 423; an account of the miller whose arm was torn off by a mill, August 15, 1737, No. 449; and a remarkable instance of the bones of animals being turned red by aliment only, No. 442. The greatest discoveries frequently are owing to trifling and accidental causes. Such was the ease in the last-mentioned circumstance, Mr. Belchier being led to make his inquiries on that subject, by the bone of a boiled leg of pork being discovered to be perfectly red, though the meat was well-flavoured, and of the usual colour. On his resignation as surgeon of Guy’s, he was made governor both of that and St. Thomas’s hospital, to which he was particularly serviceable, having recommended not less than 140 governors. Mr. Belchier in private life was a man of strict integrity, warm and zealous in his attachments, sparing neither labour nor time to serve those for whom he professed a friendship. Of this he gave a strong proof, in becoming himself a governor of the London hospital, purposely to serve a gentleman who had been his pupil. Indeed, he on every occasion was particularly desirous of serving those who had been under his care. A man of such a disposition could not fail of being caressed and beloved by all that really knew him. In convervation he was entertaining, and remarkable for bons mots, which he uttered with a dry laconic bluntness peculiar to himself; yet under this rough exterior he was possessed of a feeling and compassionate heart. Of the latter, his constantly sending a plate of victuals every day, during his confinement, to a man, who, having gained admittance to him, presented a pistol with an intent to rob him, and whom he seized and secured, is an unquestionable proof, as well as of his personal courage. Such were his gratitude and friendship too for those of his acquaintance, that on several sheets he has mentioned their names with some legacy as a token of remembrance, as medals, pictures, books, &c. trinkets and preparations, and on another paper says he could not do more, having a family of children. Whenever he spoke of Mr. Guy, the founder of the hospital, it was in a strain of enthusiasm, which he even carried so far as to saint him. A gentleman having on one of those occasions begged leave to relnark, that he had never before heard of St. Guy, Mr. Belchier, in his sentimental way, replied, “No, sir: perhaps you may not find his name in ’the calendar, but give me leave to tell you, that he has a | better title to canonization than nine-tenths of those whose names are there; some of them may, perhaps, have given sight to the blind, or enabled the lame to walk; but can you quote me an instance of one of them bestowing one hundred and fifty thousand pounds sterling for the purpose of relieving his fellow creatures?” Mr. Belchier was a great admirer of the fine arts, and lived in habits of intimacy with the principal artists of his time. He enjoyed a great share of health, though far advanced in years. A friend of his being some time since attacked with epileptic fits, he exclaimed, “I am extremely sorry for him, but when I fall I hope it will be to rise no more;” and he succeeded in a great measure in his wish, for being taken with a shivering fit at Batson’s coffee-house, he returned home and went to bed. The next day he thought himself better, got up, and attempted to come down stairs, but complained to those who were assisting him, that they hurried him, and immediately alter exclaiming, “It is all over!” fell back and expired. His body was interred in the chapel at Guy’s hospiial. He died in 1785. 1


Preceding edition of this Dictionary.