Pole, Thomas (DNB00)

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POLE, THOMAS (1753–1829), quaker and physician, born on 13 Oct. 1753 in Philadelphia, was youngest son of John Pole (1705–1755), a native of Wiveliscombe, Somerset, who emigrated to New Jersey. His mother's maiden name was Rachel Smith of Burlington. Thomas was brought up as a member of the Society of Friends. In 1775 he visited his relatives in England, and, with the object of attending Friends' meetings, he travelled some 6,650 miles through England and Wales, chiefly on horseback, during the next two or three years. In 1777 he studied medicine with Dr. Joseph Rickman at Maidenhead, thence passed to Reading, for the same purpose, and in 1780 removed to Falmouth, on becoming assistant to Dr. J. Fox. He settled in London in 1781, was admitted a member of the College of Surgeons there, and received the degree of M.D. from St. Andrews University in 1801. In 1789 he was made a member of the American Philosophical Society, of which Benjamin Franklin was then president. His practice was mainly confined to obstetrics and to the diseases of women and children. He lectured on midwifery, and, being a skilful draughtsman, recorded instructive cases in sketches, which were engraved.

In 1790 he published his valuable ‘Anatomical Instructor’ (1790), an illustration of the modern and most approved methods of preparing and preserving the different parts of the human body for purposes of study, with copperplates drawn by himself. A new edition appeared in 1813. Pole removed to Bristol in 1802, and soon acquired an extensive practice. There he continued his medical lectures, among his pupils being James Cowles Prichard [q. v.], and he also lectured on chemistry and other sciences.

Pole throughout his life devoted much of his time to ministerial work in the Society of Friends, and took part in many philanthropic schemes. He helped William Smith in 1812 to establish the first adult schools for poor persons of neglected education in England, and wrote in their support in 1813. In 1814 he issued an account of their origin and progress, for which James Montgomery wrote a poem. Bernard Barton, the quaker poet, bore testimony in 1826 to Pole's wide sympathies and tolerant views. Despite the strictness then prevalent in the Society of Friends, a love of art remained with him to the last, and found expression in many water-colour drawings of landscape and architecture, in monotints and silhouettes. He died at Bristol on 28 Sept. 1829. In 1784 he had married Elizabeth Barrett of Cheltenham; four children survived him.

Besides the works noticed, Pole published ‘Anatomical Description of a Double Uterus and Vagina,’ 4to, London, 1792.

[Pole's manuscript journals, diaries, and correspondence; private information.]

E. T. W.