Briggs, William

, an eminent physician, was son of Augustine Briggs, esq. who was descended of an ancient family in Norfolk, and had been four times member of parliament for the city of Norwich, where this son was born about the year 1650, although his biographers differ very widely on this point. At thirteen years of age he was sent to Bene’t-college in Cambridge, and placed under the care of Dr. Thomas Tenison, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, whom he succeeded in his fellowship. He took both his degrees in arts, and was chosen fellow of his college, Nov. 1668. His genius leading him to the study of physic, he travelled into France, where he attended the lectures of the famous anatomist Mons. Vieussens at Montpelier; and, after his return, published his “Ophthalmographia” in 1676. The year following he was created M. D. at Cambridge, and soon after made fellow of the college of physicians of London. In 1682 he quitted his fellowship to his brother; and the same year his “Theory of Vision” was published by Hooke. In 1683 he sent to the royal society a continuation of that discourse, which was published in their Transactions; and the same year was by Charles II. appointed physician to St. Thomas’s hospital. In 1684 he communicated to the royal society two remarkable cases relating to vision, which were likewise printed in their Transactions; and in 1685 published a Latin version of his “Theory of Vision,” at the desire of Mr. (afterwards sir) Isaac Newton, with a recommendatory epistle from him prefixed to it. And for completing this curious and useful subject relating to the eye, he promised, in the preface, two other treatises, one “De usu partium oculi;” and the other “De ejusdem affectibus;” neither of which', however, appears to have been ever published: but, in 1687, came out a second edition of his “Ophthalmographia.” He was afterwards made physician in ordinary to king William, and continued in | great esteem for his skill in his profession till he died at Town-Malling in Kent, Sept. 4, 1704, and was there buried, although a cenotaph is erected to his memory in the church of Holt in Norfolk. He married Hannah, sole daughter and heiress of Edmund Hobart, grandson to sir Henry Hobart, lord chief justice of the common pleas in the reign of James I. by whom he left three children, Mary, Henry, and Hannah. Henry died in 1748, rector of Hoit.

Dr. Briggs’s chief patron, during his foreign travels, was the right hon. Ralph Montagu, esq. ambassador of France, and afterwards duke of Montagu. It was through this gentleman’s protection that Dr. Briggs went and studied at Montpelier, under Vieussens, to whom he acknowledged himself chiefly indebted for what skill he had in that science. The doctor was a benefactor to the college in which he had been educated. In order to render the kitchen of it more cleanly and wholesome, he caused it ta be paved with square stones; and gave besides, twenty pounds, for the augmentation of the stock for commons. He made presents, likewise, of books to the library. Dr. Briggs had a brother, Robert Briggs, who was educated in the same college, and succeeded him in his fellowship. He became successively A. B. A. M. and LL. D. was made a fellow of the royal society; and was chosen, on the 7th of February, 1686, professor of law in Gresham college, which office he held to his death, on the 22d of December, 1718. 1


Biog. Brit.—Masters’s Hist, of C. C. C. C.—Ward’s Gresham Professors.— Wood’s Fasti, vol. II.