Morton, Charles

, a learned physician and antiquary, was a native of Westmoreland, where he was born in 1716, and practised physic with considerable reputation at Kendal about 1745. At what time he removed to London we have not been able to discover, as very few particulars of his life have been recorded, but it was probably about 1751, when he was admitted a licentiate of the College of Physicians. In 1752 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society; and on the first establishment of the British Museum, in 1756, he was appointed under-librarian of the manuscripts and medal department. In 1760 he was elected one of the secretaries to the Royal Society, which situation he held till 1774; and in 1776, on the death of Dr. Maty, he was appointed principal librarian of the British Museum. He was also a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and of the Imperial Academy of Petersburgh. He died Feb. 10, 1799, aged eighty-three, and was buried in the cemetery near the London road, Twickenham. In 1744 he married Miss Mary Berkeley, a niece of Lady Betty Germaine, by whom he had an only daughter, Elizabeth, married to James Dansie, esq. of Herefordshire. He married, secondly, in 1772, Lady Savile (mother of the amiable Sir George Savile), who died Feb. 10, 1791: in which year he married to his third wife Elizabeth Pratt, a near relation of Lady Savile. Dr. Morton was a man of great uprightness and integrity, and much admired as a scholar.

Dr. Morton published in 1759 an improved edition of Dr. Barnard’s engraved “Table of Alphabets,” and Bulstrode Whitlock’s “Journal of the Swedish Embassy in 1653 and 1654,1772, 2 vols. 4to. He communicated to the Royal Society a paper on muscular motion, and another on the supposed connexion between the hieroglyphic writing of Egypt and the modern Chinese character; both of which were published in the Philosophical Transactions, vols. XLVII. and LIX. This last communication originated from an inquiry addressed to the Jesuits at Pekin, relative | to certain characters on a bust discovered by Mr. Needham at Turin, whose conjectures concerning them were controverted by Desguignes, Bartoli, Winkleman, and Wortley Montague. The Jesuits, assisted by the Chinese literati, decided that the characters in question, though four or five have a sensible resemblance to as many Chinese ones, are not genuine Chinese characters, having no connected sense nor proper resemblance to any of the different forms of writing, and that the whole inscription had nothing Chinese in the face of it; but, in order to promote discoveries, they sent an actual collation of the Egyptian with the Chinese hieroglyphics, engraved on twenty-six plates. In 1768 Dr. Morton was appointed, jointly with Mr. Farley, to superintend the publication of the Domesday Book, but soon relinquished the task. At this time it was proposed to have been carried into execution by types; and Mr. Gough says, Dr. Morton had 500l. for doing little or nothing, and nearly 200l. more for types that were of no use. 1

1 Nichols’s Bowyer.—Lysons’s Environs, supplementary volume.