Brownrigg, William

, an eminent physician, a native of Cumberland, was born in 1711, and educated in medical science at Leyden, under Albinus, Euler, and Boerhaave. Having taken his medical degree in 1737, he returned to his native country, and settled at Whitehaven, where his practice became very extensive. About twenty years before his death, he retired to Ormathwaite, where he died, Jan. 7, 1800, in his eighty-ninth year, regretted as a man of amiable and endearing virtues, and a most skilful physician. His principal publications were, 1. His inaugural thesis, “De Praxi medica ineunda,Leyden, 1737, 4to. 2. “A treatise on the art of making common Salt,” Lond. 1748, 8vo, which procured him the honour of being chosen a fellow of the royal society. This work, which has long been out of print, was praised by Chaptal and bishop Watson for the profound knowledge of the subject displayed in it. 3. “An enquiry concerning the mineral elastic spirit contained in the water of Spa in Germany,” printed in the Philosophical Transactions, vol. LV. 4. A treatise, “On the means of preventing the communication of pestilent contagion.A trip to the Spas of Germany suggested to him the idea of analizing the properties of the Pyrmont springs, and of some others, and led him into that train of nice and deep disquisition, which terminated in the de-elementizing one of our elements, and fixing its invisible fluid form into a palpable and visible substance. All this he effected by producing the various combinations of gases and vapours which constitute atmospheric air, and separating into many forms this long-supposed one and indivisible, whilst he solidified its fluid essence into a hard substance. That Dr. Brownrigg was the legitimate father of these discoveries was not only known at | the time to his intimate and domestic circle, but also to the then president of the royal society, sir John Pringle; who, when called upon to bestow upon Dr. Priestley the gold medal for his paper of “Discoveries of the Nature and Properties of Air,” thus observes, “And it is no disparagement to the learned Dr. Priestley, that the vein of these discoveries was hit upon, and its course successfully followed up, some years ago, by my very learned, very penetrating, very industrious, but too modest friend, Dr. Brownrigg.” To habits, indeed, of too much diffidence, and to too nice a scrupulosity of taste, the world has to attribute the fewness of his publications. One of his literary projects was a general history of the county of Cumberland, but it does not appear that he had made much progress. He assisted Mr. West, however, in his entertaining.“Tour to the Lakes,” forming the plan of that popular work. 1


Gent. Mag. 1800.