Clifton, Francis (DNB00)

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CLIFTON, FRANCIS, M.D. (d. 1736), physician, was the fourth and youngest son of Josiah Clifton, merchant, of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, by his wife Mary, only child of Thomas Fenne of the same town (wills of Josiah and Mary Clifton, reg. in P. C. C. 191, Marlboro, and 295, Abbott, respectively; Palmer, Perlustration of Great Yarmouth, ii. 191). Electing to follow the profession of physic, he was entered at Leyden on 23 May 1724, and before the end of the year graduated doctor of medicine there. His inaugural dissertation, 'De distinctis et confluentibus Variolis,' Leyden, 1724, 4to, was included by Haller in the fifth volume of his 'Disputationes ad Morborum Historiam et Curationem facientes.' Clifton afterwards settled in London, where his classical and scientific attainments won him the friendship of many eminent men, among others of Sir Hans Sloane, at whose instance he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 22 June 1727. The same year he published 'Hippocratis Coi Operum quse extant omnium secundum Leges artis Medicae dispositorum, editionis novse specimen,' London, 1727, folio, which was followed in 1732 by 'Proposals for Printing, by subscription, all the works of Hippocrates in Greek and Latin, digested in a new and regular manner,' but from want of encouragement the intended publication never appeared (Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, ii. 14-15). Clifton received the honorary degree of M.D. from Cambridge on 26 April 1728, during the visit of George II; was admitted a candidate of the College of Physicians on 23 Dec. in the same year, a fellow on 22 Dec. 1729, and read the Gulstonian lectures in 1732. He also held the appointment of physician to the Prince of Wales, which he resigned, and abruptly quitted London for Jamaica in 1734. Writing to Sir Hans Sloane from Kingston in that island on 3 June 1736, he says : 'My misfortunes came so fast upon me, and my brother's provocations were so frequently repeated, that I was hurried in a manner to death about 'em' (Sloane MS. 4041, f. 9). He died a few weeks afterwards, leaving no issue by his wife, Sarah Banckes, daughter of a merchant in Leadenhall Street. In the letters of administration P. C. C. granted on 6 Nov. 1736 to his widow, Clifton is described as 'late of the parish of St. George, Hanover Square, Middlesex, but at Kingston in Jamaica, deceased.' His widow survived until 1747, and was buried in the parish church of St. Andrew Undershaft (will reg. in P. C. C. 145, Potter).

At the time of his death Clifton was engaged in drawing up an account of the diseases of Jamaica, but left it unfinished. His other works were:

  1. 'Tabular Observations recommended as the plainest … way of practising and improving Physick,' London, 1731, 8vo.
  2. 'The State of Physick, Ancient and Modern, briefly considered,' London, 1732, 8vo. In this treatise the author maintains that Hippocrates had anticipated Newton in his idea of the system of gravitation. A French version by the Abbé Desfontaines was published at Paris in 1742.
  3. 'Hippocrates upon Air, Water, and Situation … To this is added Thucidides's Account of the Plague of Athens. Translated and … illustrated with notes,' London, 1734, 8vo.
[Munk's Coll. of Phys., 2nd edit, ii. 115-16; Nouvelle Biographie Generale, x. 864; Biographie Universelle, 453-4.]

G. G.