Jones, Henry Bence (DNB00)

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JONES, HENRY BENCE, M.D. (1814–1873), physician and chemist, was the second son of Lieutenant-colonel William Jones, 5th dragoon guards, by his wife Matilda, daughter of Bence Bence of Thorington Hall, Suffolk, rector of Beccles. William Bence Jones [q. v.] was his brother. He was born in 1814 at Thorington Hall, was sent in his twelfth year to Harrow School, and in 1832 entered Trinity College, Cambridge. He graduated B.A. 1836, M.A. 1842, M.B. 1845, M.D. 1849. On leaving Cambridge he studied medicine at St. George's Hospital, London, and chemistry in Graham's laboratory at University College, and in 1841 went to Giessen to work at chemistry under Liebig. He became licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians 1842, fellow 1849, and was afterwards senior censor. He became fellow of the Royal Society 1846, and was from 1860 till almost the close of his life secretary of the Royal Institution. In 1845 he was elected assistant and in the next year full physician to St. George's Hospital, an appointment which he resigned in 1862. He died 20 April 1873 at his house in Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, London.

In 1842 he married his cousin, Lady Millicent Acheson, daughter of the second Earl of Gosford, who, with a large family, survived him.

Bence Jones was an accomplished physician, who acquired a large and remunerative practice. He was also an excellent chemist, and devoted himself especially to questions bearing on the applications of chemistry to pathology and medicine, in which subjects, being an enthusiastic and diligent worker, he made numerous important researches. His first scientific memoir was ‘On a Cystic Oxide Calculus,’ in the ‘Med.-Chir. Transactions’ for 1840. In 1849 he delivered a course of lectures on ‘Animal Chemistry in its application to Stomach and Renal Diseases,’ which were published in the following year, and at once caused him to be recognised as an authority in those classes of diseases. He belonged to the school of Liebig, and though many of the views which he held in common with his master have been superseded, much of his work has preserved its value. Its weak point was a too direct application of the laws of chemistry to the complex phenomena of the human body. He was also keenly interested in the advancement of science generally, and while secretary of the Royal Institution devoted himself to making the newest scientific discoveries known to the public. He was a friend and loyal admirer of Faraday, whose life he wrote.

His mental activity and genial temperament made him well known and popular in society, but his closest friends were found among scientific men at home and abroad. As a physician his chief characteristics were said to be ‘scientific truth, accuracy, and a dislike to empiricism.’

He published the following works (London, 8vo):

  1. ‘Gravel, Calculus, and Gout, the application of Liebig's Physiology to these Diseases,’ 1842.
  2. ‘Animal Electricity,’ 1852.
  3. ‘The Chemistry of Urine,’ 1857.
  4. ‘Lectures on Animal Chemistry,’ 1860.
  5. ‘Lectures on the application of Chemistry and Mechanics to Pathology and Therapeutics,’ 1867.
  6. ‘Croonian Lectures at the College of Physicians on Matter and Force,’ 12mo, 1868.
  7. ‘Life and Letters of Faraday,’ 2 vols., 1870.

Among his scientific memoirs (which number thirty-four in the ‘Royal Society Catalogue’) may be mentioned: In the ‘Phil. Trans.:’ ‘Contributions to the Chemistry of the Urine,’ pt. i. 1845, pt. ii. 1846, pt. iii. 1849–50; ‘On the Oxidation of Ammonia in the Human Body,’ 1851. In the ‘Medico-Chirurg. Trans.:’ ‘On Alkalescence of the Urine in Diseases of the Stomach,’ vol. xxxv., 1852; ‘On Intermitting Diabetes,’ vol. xxxvi., 1853. In ‘Journal of Chem. Soc.:’ ‘On Variations of Hippuric and Uric Acids in Urine,’ vol. xv., 1862; ‘On Amorphous Deposit of Urates’ (ib.) Besides other papers in Liebig's ‘Annalen,’ ‘Annales de Chimie,’ ‘Proc. Royal Institution,’ &c.

[Medical Times and Gazette, 1873, i. 505; Lancet, 26 April 1873; Burke's Landed Gentry, 7th ed. 1886.]

J. F. P.