Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/22

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Brown
Brown
16

of indiscriminate lowering was a mistake, waa a doctrine that commended itself to the sensible and unprejudiced. The 'Elementa Medicinæ' consists of 'a first or reasoning part,' which proceeds upon a philosophical conception of life and diseased life more fundamental than any that had ever before been framed, a conception which reappears in Erasmus Darwin's 'Zoonomia,' and in Spencer's 'Principles of Biology' ('Incitatio, potestatum incitantium operis effectus, idonea prosperam; nimia aut deficiens, adversam valetudinem. Nulla alia corporis humani vivi, rite secusve valentis ; morborum nulla alia origo). In the second part he takes concrete diseases in systematic order, after the nosological fashion of the time, and ap- plies his doctrine to each. The sound practical truth running through the Brunonian system, that many paradoxical manifestations of morbid action were really evidences of debility which called for supporting treatment, has m the end been quietly absorbed among the commonplaces of modem practice. But it was many years before the opposing prejudices were overcome. So late as 1841 Cullen's biographer appeals triumpliantly to 'the intelligent practitioner' on behalf of bloodletting in inflammatory fever (Life of Cullen, ii. 326).

Brown carried on the war in Edinburgh six years longer against the professors and the general body of practitioners. Hardly any practice came to him, and the attendance at his public lectures fell away. The needs of a large family and his own improvidence brought him into serious money troubles, and he was at one time lodged in prison for debt. During his last year in Edinburgh he published 'A Short Account of the Old Method of Cure, and Outlines of the New Doctrine.' He also founded the masonic lodge of the Roman Eagle, for the encouragement of Latin scholarship, and attracted to it a number of the best known wits and scholars of the place. In 1786 he removed with his family to London, and established himself in a house in Golden Square.

In his domestic circle he had his greatest happiness. He had taught his three eldest girls and his eldest boy Latin, and had carried them some little way in Greek. Among his papers there was found a considerable fragment of a Greek grammar, written in Latin with rules in hexameter verse, which he had designcd primarily for the use of his children. His cheerfulness never failed him. In London men of letters came to see him, among others Dr. Samuel Parr; but not many patients. He gave in his house courses of lectures on medicine, which do not appear to have excited much interest among London practitioners or students, althoughliis name was well known among them. An invitation to him from Frederick the Great to settle at the court of Berlin somehow miscarried or was rescinded. Debts again overtook him, and, through a piece of sharp practice, and perhaps treachery, he was obliged for a time to become an inmate of the king's bench prison. One means of extricating himself, closely pressed upon him by a group of greedy speculators, was to give {lis name to a pill or other nostrum ; but the temptation was resisted. He now wrote more than he had done. He made an English translation of his 'Elementa Medicinse,' writing it in twenty-one days. He contracted with a publisher for 500l. to produce a treatise on the gout, and he haa other literary projects which would occupy him, he said, for ten years to come. His prospects were certainly brightening; he had several families to attend and patients were coming in, when he was struck down by apoplexy, and died on 17 Oct. 1788. He was buried in the churchyard of St. James's, Piccadilly. A portrait of him was engraved by William lake, from a miniature now in the possession of his grandson, Mr. Ford Madox Brown. He left four sons and four daughters, who were provided for by the generosity of his friends, Dr. Parr among^the rest. His eldest son, William Cullen Brown, subsequently studied medicine at Edinburgh, where he was received with much kindness by Dr. Gregory and other professors, and admitted to the lectures without fee. He, like his father, became president of the Royal Medical Society, and brought out an edition of his father's works in 3 vols. 8vo, London, 1804, with a biography of the author. A life by Dr. Beddoes of Bristol, with a portrait, was prefixed to the second edition (2 vols. 1795) of Brown's own English version of his 'Elementa Medicince.' Some 250 pages of vol. ii. of Professor John Thomson's 'Life of Cullen' (1832-59) are devoted to a laboured examination of the Brunonian episode and the Brunonian doctrine, from the Edinburgh professorial point of view.

The fortunes of the brunonian doctrine, after the death of its author, occupy a considerable space in the history of medicine. The ' Elementa ' was reprinted at Milan in 1792, and at Hildburgshausen in 1794. The English version was republished at Philadelphia in 1790 by Dr. Benjamin Bush ; a German translation of it was made at Frankfurt in 1795, and again in 1798 ; another at Copenhagen (three editions) ; there was also a French translation which was laid before