Burder, Thomas Harrison (DNB00)

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BURDER, THOMAS HARRISON (1789–1843), physician, was born in 1789 at Coventry, where his father [see Burder, George] was a congregationalist minister. His general education was imperfect. It was at first intended that he should be a chemist and druggist, but after a while he decided to adopt the medical profession. After pursuing his studies for about five years in London he went to Edinburgh in 1812, where he had the honour of being elected one of the presidents of the Royal Medical Society, and where he took the degree of M.D. in 1815. He determined to settle in London as a physician, and was for a time attached to the Westminster General Dispensary. But he suffered from almost constant ill health, which rendered him quite unequal to bear the harassing fatigues of medical practice, and obliged him, during the nineteen years that he struggled on in London, to give it up sometimes for weeks, sometimes even for months together. He had married his cousin, Elizabeth Burder, in 1828, and his father had passed the last four years of his life under their roof; but after his death in 1832 Dr. Burder began to think seriously of leaving London altogether, and this plan he carried out in 1834. The change of air and mode of life added much to his comfort, but did not completely restore his health; and he died at Tunbridge Wells in 1843 at the age of fifty-four. He left no family, and his widow died in the following year. He was one of the writers in the ‘Cyclopædia of Practical Medicine’ (1833–5), and the materials for one of his articles (‘Headache’) were drawn in a great measure from his own painful experience. Throughout his life he was from time to time inclined to devote himself entirely to ministerial work, and at one time had serious thoughts of joining the church of England. He continued, however, to belong to the congregationalists, though he did not become a member of the ‘church’ or ‘society’ of that body till he was nearly forty. About six years before he left London he became acquainted with Dr. James Hope [see Hope, James]; and at a later period, when he discovered that Dr. Hope was influenced by the same religious feelings as himself, this acquaintance ripened into warm affection. After he had finally relinquished his profession a suggestion from Dr. Hope induced him to address to him three letters, which appeared in the ‘Evangelical Magazine’ for 1836, under the title of ‘Letters from a Senior to a Junior Physician on the importance of promoting the religious welfare of his patients,’ and which were inserted in his ‘Memoir’ and in the ‘Memoir of Dr. Hope,’ and also published in a separate form at Oxford in 1845. These ‘Letters’ (which he at one time entertained the idea of expanding and further illustrating), and the pattern of personal holiness exhibited in his correspondence published after his death, are the only remains of a man of more than ordinary abilities.

[Dr. Theoph. Thompson's Sketch; Rev. John Burder's Memoir; Life, with Extracts from his Correspondence, Oxford, 1845.]

W. A. G.