Gooch, Robert (DNB00)

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GOOCH, ROBERT, M.D. (1784–1830), physician, born at Yarmouth, Norfolk, in June 1784, was son of Robert Gooch, a sea captain who was grandson of Sir Thomas Gooch [q. v.] He was educated at a private day school, and when fifteen was apprenticed to Giles Borrett, surgeon-apothecary at Yarmouth, who had a great practice, and had shown ability in published observations on hernia. Gooch used to visit a blind Mr. Harley, who gave him a taste for literature and philosophy, which he felt grateful for throughout life, and acknowledged by a bequest large in proportion to his means. When Nelson came to visit the wounded of the battle of Copenhagen, Gooch went round the Yarmouth Hospital with him, and was delighted with the kind words which the admiral addressed to every wounded man. In 1804 he went to the university of Edinburgh, where among his chief friends were Henry Southey [q. v.] and William Knighton [q. v.] In his vacations he studied German at Norwich with William Taylor [q. v.], and became engaged to marry Miss Bolingbroke. He graduated M.D. June 1807, his inaugural dissertation being on rickets. After a tour in the highlands, and some further holiday in Norfolk, he came to London, worked under Astley Cooper, and in 1808 began general practice at Croydon, Surrey. He also wrote in the ‘London Medical Record,’ and married the lady to whom he had been engaged for four years. She died in January 1811, and her child in July of the same year. He left Croydon, took a house in Aldermanbury, and after a tour, in which he became intimate with the poet Southey at Keswick, was admitted a licentiate of the College of Physicians 6 March 1812 (Munk, Coll. of Phys. iii. 102), and was soon after elected lecturer on midwifery at St. Bartholomew's Hospital. In January 1814 he married the sister of Benjamin Travers [q. v.], the surgeon, and in 1816 went to live in Berners Street, where his practice in midwifery and the diseases of women soon became large. His health was feeble, and often obliged him to suspend his work. During one of his journeys abroad for health he wrote the letters on ‘Beguines and Nursing,’ printed in the appendix to Southey's ‘Colloquies on Society,’ and in December 1825 he wrote an article on the plague in the ‘Quarterly Review.’ In January 1826 he had hæmoptysis, and in April of that year, in view of the probable necessity of his retirement from practice, his friend Sir William Knighton procured for him the post of librarian to the king. He grew more and more emaciated, but still worked hard, and in 1829 finished at Brighton the ‘Account of some of the most Important Diseases peculiar to Women,’ which is his chief work, and is still read. In January 1830 he wrote an article in the ‘Quarterly Review’ on the Anatomy Act, and at last, confined to bed by consumption, died 16 Feb. 1830, leaving two sons and a daughter. His scattered papers have been published, with a new edition of his treatise on the diseases of women, by Dr. Robert Ferguson, London, 1859. Gooch had a power of clear description, and besides showing careful clinical observation his writings are readable. His account of a nightmare which he had in boyhood (Lives of British Physicians, p. 306) is a model of a description which owes its power to the perfect truth and simplicity of the narration. Many similar examples of precise forcible description are to be found in his medical writings. He certainly deserved the high reputation which he had among his contemporaries. He was a small man, with large dark eyes, and his hands were always cold; ‘the cold hand of a dyspeptic,’ he once said (for he was unwilling to admit that the coldness was due to the consumption obvious in his face), ‘is an advantage in the examination of the abdomen; the old physicians used for the purpose to plunge one hand into cold water.’ His portrait by R. J. Lane, given by his daughter, is at the College of Physicians of London.

[Dr. MacMichael's Lives of British Physicians, p. 305. This life is based upon personal knowledge and information given by Gooch's friend, Dr. H. H. Southey; Munk's Coll. of Phys. iii. 100; Memoir of the late Giles Borrett, Yarmouth, 1842; MS. Minutes St. Bartholomew's Hospital; information from the late Dr. Patrick Black.]

N. M.