Baylies, William (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 03
Baylies, William

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BAYLIES, WILLIAM (1724–1787), physician, born in 1724, was a native of Worcestershire, and practised for some years as an apothecary. After marrying the daughter of Thomas Cooke, a wealthy attorney of Evesham, he began the study of medicine, obtained the degree of M.D. at Aberdeen on 18 Dec. 1748, and was elected a fellow of the Edinburgh College of Physicians on 7 Aug. 1757. He practised for many years at Bath, and published in 1757 ‘Reflections on the Use and Abuse of Bath Waters,’ which involved him in a dispute with Dr. Lucas and Dr. Oliver, the two chief doctors of the city. He issued a pamphlet concerning this quarrel—‘A Narrative of Facts demonstrating the existence and course of a physical confederacy, made known in the printed letters of Dr. Lucas and Dr. Oliver,’ 1757. But the controversy ruined Baylies's practice, and he removed to London, and on 8 Nov. 1764 was appointed physician to the Middlesex Hospital. He unsuccessfully contested the representation of Evesham in parliament in 1761, and petitioned against the return of one of his rivals, but withdrew the petition before the day of hearing (15 Dec.) He became licentiate of the College of Physicians in London on 30 Sept. 1765, and made himself notorious by the magnificent entertainments he repeatedly gave at his house in Great George Street, Westminster. Pecuniary difficulties forced him to leave England for Germany. He first settled at Dresden, and afterwards at Berlin, where he obtained the post of physician to Frederick the Great. It is said that the King of Prussia at an early interview with Baylies remarked to him that ‘to have acquired such skill he must have killed a great many people,’ and that the doctor replied, ‘Pas tant que votre Majesté.’ Baylies died at Berlin on 2 March 1789, and left his library to the King of Prussia. A portrait of him by H. Schmid, engraved by D. Berger, was published at Berlin. Baylies was the author of the following works (besides those already mentioned): 1. ‘Remarks on Perry's Analysis of the Stratford Mineral Water,’ Stratford-on-Avon, 1745. 2. ‘A History of the General Hospital at Bath,’ London, 1758. 3. ‘Facts and Observations relative to Inoculation at Berlin,’ Edinburgh, 1781, of which a French translation was previously issued at Dresden in 1776.

[Munk's College of Physicians, ii. 271–2; Gent. Mag. 1787, pt. ii. 857; Watt's Bibl. Brit.]