Withering, William

, an able physician and botanist, was born in 1741, at Wiliington in Shropshire, where his father was an apothecary. After being initiated in pharmacy and medicine under his father, he was sent to the university of Edinburgh, where he studied the usual time, and took the degree of doctor of physic in 1766. Not long after he left the university, he settled at Stafford, where meeting with little encouragement, he removed in 1774 to Birmingham; and here his abilities were soon called into action; and in a few years his practice became very extensive, and having a studious turn, he devoted those hours which remained after the business of the day, to philosophical and scientific pursuits. In 1776 he published, in 2 vols. 8vo, the first edition of his “Botanical Arrangement;” a work which, at that time, could be considered as little more than a mere translation from Linnæus of such genera and species of plants as are indigenous in Great Britain and in which Ray’s “Synopsis Methodica Stirpium Britannicarum,” and Hudson’s “Flora Angiica,” could not fail to afford him great assistance; but, in the course of the two other editions of it (the last of which, in 4 vols. 8vo, was published in 1796), this “Arrangement” has been so mucii improved and enlarged, as to have become, in a great | measure, an original work; and certainly, as a national Flora^ it must be allowed to be a very elaborate and complete, performance. Botany, however, did not engross all ouf author’s attention: many of his leisure hours he devoted to chemistry and mineralogy. In 1783, he translated Bergman’s “Sciagraphia Regni Mineralis,” under the title of “Outlines of Mineralogy;” and, before and since that time, he addressed!to the Koyal Society several communications relative to those branches of knowledge. Thus, in 1773, we find inserted in the Philosophical Transactions his experiments on different kinds of marie found in Staffordshire. In the same Transactions for 1782, his analysis of the toad-stone, a fossil met with in Derbyshire. In the same work for 1784, his experiment on the terra ponderosa. And lastly, in 1798, his analysis of a hot mineral spring in Portugal. Amidst these diversified pursuits he did not relax in his professional studies. In 1779, he published an “Account of the Scarlet Fever and Sore Throat” and, in 1785, appeared his account of the fox-glove; wherein he laid before the public a very satisfactory body of evidence in favour of the diuretic virtues of this vegetable in various kinds of dropsies. From early life Dr. Withering was of a slender and delicate habit of body; and, not. long after his first establishment in practice, he became subject to attacks of peripneumony. By these repeated attacks his lungs were at length so much injured, and his whole frame so much debilitated, that he found it necessary to repair to a warmer climate. Accordingly, in the autumn of 1793, he made a voyage to Lisbon, where he passed the winter, returning to England the following spring. Thinking he had received benefit from the climate of Portugal, he made a second voyage to Lisbon the following winter, and returned home again 1795. While he was in Portugal, he analyzed the hot mineral waters, called the Caldas. This analysis was published in the Memoirs of the royal academy of sciences at Lisbon; and since in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in London. After his return from his last voyage to Lisbon, his health remained in a very fluctuating state, sometimes so tolerable as to allow going out in a carriage; at other times, so bad as to contine him to his room. In this manner his existence was protracted until Sept. 1799, when he removed from Edgbaston-hall, where he had resided (under a lease granted by the late lord Calthorpe) for several years, to a house. | which he had recently purchased, and had named the Larches, and where he died Oct. 6, 1799. To the distinguished rank which he held in *he medical profession, Dr. Withering was raised wholly by personal merit. He possessed great clearness of discernment, joined with a most persevering application. He was of a humane and mild disposition. With his family and among his friends he was cheerful and communicative; but with the world at large, and even in his professional character, he. was shy and reserved. 1


Gent. Mag. vol. LXIX.