Hodges, Nathaniel (DNB00)

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HODGES, NATHANIEL, M.D. (1629–1688), physician, son of Dr. Thomas Hodges, vicar of Kensington, was born in that parish on 13 Sept. 1629. He was a king's scholar of Westminster School, and obtained a scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1646. In 1648 he migrated to Oxford, and was appointed by the parliamentary visitors a student of Christ Church, where he graduated B.A. 1651, M.A. 1654, and M.D. 1659. He was a contributor to the Oxford volume of verse issued in 1654 to celebrate the peace with the Dutch. He then took a house in Walbrook, London, and commenced practice there. He was admitted a candidate or member of the College of Physicians 30 Sept. 1659. When the plague raged in London in 1665, he remained in residence, and attended all who sought his advice. During the Christmas holidays of 1664–5 he saw a few doubtful cases, and in May and June several certain cases; in August and September as many as he could see by working hard all day. He rose early, and took a dose of anti-pestilential electuary as large as a nutmeg. After transacting any household affairs he entered his consulting room. Crowds of patients were always waiting, and for three hours he examined them and prescribed, finding some who were already ill, and others only affected by fear. When he had seen all he breakfasted, and visited patients at their houses. On entering a house he had a disinfectant burnt on hot coals, and if hot or out of breath rested till at his ease, then put a lozenge in his mouth and proceeded to examine the patient. After spending some hours in this way he returned home and drank a glass of sack, dining soon after, usually off roast meat with pickles or other relish, condiments of all kinds being cheap and abundant in the city during the epidemic. He drank more wine at dinner. Afterwards he saw patients at his own house, and paid more visits, returning home between eight and nine o'clock. He spent the evening at home, never smoking tobacco, of which he was a professed enemy, but drinking old sack till he felt thoroughly cheerful. After this he generally slept well. Twice during the epidemic he felt as if the plague had infected him, but after increased draughts of sack he felt well in a few hours, and he escaped without serious illness. In 1666 he published a somewhat pedantic attack on quacks, ‘Vindiciæ Medicinæ et Medicorum, an Apology for the Profession and Professors of Physic.’ In recognition of his services to the citizens during the plague, the authorities of the city granted him a stipend as their authorised physician. In 1671 he completed an account of the plague, which was published in 1672 as ‘Loimologia, sive Pestis nuperæ apud Populum Londinensem grassantis Narratio Historica.’ This book shows Hodges to have been an excellent observer both as to symptoms and the results of treatment. Bezoar, unicorn's horn, and dried toads he tried and found useless, but he recognised the merit of serpentary as a diaphoretic, and of hartshorn as a cardiac stimulant. His cases are clearly related, and he is probably the only writer who has described pericarditis in a case of plague. The College of Physicians recognised the merit of the book, and elected him a fellow 2 April 1672. In 1682 he was censor, and in 1683 delivered the Harveian oration, which has not been printed. When censor he gave the college a fire-engine. His practice did not continue to increase, he became poor, was imprisoned in Ludgate for debt, and there died 10 June 1688. He was buried in Wren's fine church of St. Stephen's, Walbrook, and his bust and inscription are to be seen there. His medical commonplace book, in which little more than the headings are written on most pages, is among the Sloane MSS. in the British Museum. A translation of ‘Loimologia’ by Dr. Quincy was published in 1720.

[Munk's Coll. of Phys. i. 361; Hodges's Commonplace Book; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iv. 149; Welch's Alumni Westmonast. p. 127; Loimologia.]

N. M.