Molyneux, Thomas (1661-1733) (DNB00)
|←Molyneux, Thomas (1531-1597)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 38
Molyneux, Thomas (1661-1733)
MOLYNEUX, Sir THOMAS (1661-1733), physician, brother of William Molyneux [q. v.], was born in Dublin, 14 April 1661. He was educated at Dr. Henry Rider's school in Dublin, and entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1676. He graduated M. A. and M.B. in 1683, and then started for Ley den in order to extend his medical knowledge before proceeding to the degree of M.D. He sailed from Dublin in the first week of May 1683, rested at Chester for five days, and was introduced to Bishop Pearson [q. v.], whom he at once recognised from the frontispiece of his 'Treatise on the Creed.' On 12 May he arrived in London and took lodgings at the Flower de Luce, near St. Dunstan's Church in Fleet Street. He called on Nehemiah Grew [q. v.], and there met Thomas Burnet [q.v.], author of 'Theoria Telluris,' and Robert Boyle [q. v.], at whose house he made the acquaintance of Sir William Petty [q. v.] Soon after he was introduced to Dr. Edward Browne [q. v.], and on 23 May attended a meeting of the Royal Society in Gresham College and saw Sir Isaac Newton, John Evelyn, and Dr. Edward Tyson [q. v.] He enjoyed the conversation of all these famous men as well as that of John Flamsteed [q. v.], the astronomer. Early in June he visited Eton and saw King William and Queen Mary at supper at Windsor, and later in the month met Dryden in London. He went to Cambridge, where he saw 'that extraordinary platonick philosopher,' Dr. Henry More, and was surprised at the purple gowns of the Trinity undergraduates. On 17 July he went to Oxford, attended a lecture of Dr. Luff, the professor of physic, on the first aphorism of Hippocrates, and made the acquaintance of several learned men. On 20 July he sailed from Billingsgate to Rotterdam, visited Amsterdam, Haarlem, and Utrecht, and finally entered at the university of Leyden. While there next year he met Locke, who afterwards wrote a letter to him from Utrecht on 22 Dec. 1684, thanking him for his kindness. In the 'Philosophical Transactions,' No. 168, he published an essay on a human frontal bone in the museum at Leyden, of extreme size and thickness, an example either of Parrot's disease or of the osteitis deformans of Paget. On 14 March 1685 he made a report to the Royal Society on the collections of Swammerdam and Hermann, and in the same year went to Paris, where he stayed till his return to London in March 1686. In April 1687 he returned to Dublin, there graduated M.D., and on 3 Nov. 1687 was elected F.R.S. The troubles of the times led him to move to Chester and begin practice there, but in 1690, after the battle of the Boyne, he came back to Dublin, lived in his father's house, and practised as a physician. He kept up his correspondence with Locke, who sometimes consulted him, and with other learned acquaintances, and in the new charter to the Irish College of Physicians, 15 Dec. 1692, he is named as a fellow. His practice was so successful that in 1693 he bought an estate of 100l. a year. In the same year (Phil. Trans. No. 202) he published an essay on calculus, and in 1698 a further paper on the same subject. He married in 1693 Catharine Howard, daughter of Dr. Robert Howard, a lady accomplished as a painter. In 1694 he published in the ' Philosophical Transactions ' a medical essay ' On the late Coughs and Colds,' and shortly after 'Notes on the Giant's Causeway,' the first publication in which the opinion that it is a natural production and not a work of man is maintained. He had a drawing made of it, and in a second paper (ib. No. 241) describes the details of drawing. He was interested in all parts of natural science, and having found in the stomach of a codfish a specimen of Aphrodite aculeata, an annulate animal with iridescent hairs, he dissected it and sent an account of its anatomy in a letter to Locke, who forwarded it to the Royal Society. It is the earliest account of the structure of the sea mouse, and is printed in the 'Philosophical Transactions,' No. 225. In April 1696 he published the first scientific account of the Irish elk (Cervus megaceros), 1 A Discourse concerning the large Horns frequently found underground in Ireland.' He also published a letter to Dr. Ashe, bishop of Clogher, ' On the Swarms of Insects of late years seen in the County Longford.' His brother "William, to whom he was deeply attached, died in 1698, and Locke wrote him a consolatory letter on the occasion. In 1699 he again visited London and was painted by Kneller. The picture is preserved in Trinity College, Dublin. He next published (Phil. Trans. No. 261) an essay on giants, and in 1701 'Notes on an Epidemic of Eye-disease which occurred at Castletown Delvin, co. Westmeath,' followed in 1702 by a ' Letter on the Lyre of the Greeks and Romans.' On 19 Oct. 1702 he was elected president of the College of Physicians of Ireland, and held the same olfice in 1709, 1713, and 1720. In 1711 he built himself a large town house in Peter Street, Dublin, and in 1715 he was appointed state physician in Ireland, and in January 1717 professor of medicine in the university of Dublin. He was also physician-general to the army. He did not conclude his scientific writings, but published in 1715 an account of an elephant's jaw found in Cavan, and in 1725 ' A Discourse on Danish Forts.' In 1727 he wrote, but did not print, ' Some Observations on the Taxes paid by Ireland to support the Government.' On 30 July 1730 he was created a baronet, and his successor in title is seated at Castle Dillon, co. Armagh. He had sixteen children. He died in 1733, and is buried in Armagh Cathedral, where there is a fine statue of him by Roubiliac (Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. xviii. 114). His published observations show him to have been an excellent physician. Several of his zoological papers are the first upon their subjects, and he took an active interest in every branch of learning, and delighted in the society of all learned men. He occupied a position in Ireland resembling that of Richard Mead [q. v.] in England, but in mental activity, as well as in the highest qualities included in the term 'good breeding,' he excelled Mead.
[Dublin University Magazine, vol. xviii., where many of his letters are printed in full ; Locke's Works ; Chalmers's Biog. Diet. ; A. Webb's Com- pendium of Irish Biography; Sir C. A. Cameron's Hist, of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland ; Works.]