Ring, John (DNB00)

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RING, JOHN (1752–1821), surgeon, son of Richard Ring, was born at Wincanton in Somerset, and was baptised there on 21 Aug. 1752. His parents were apparently people of some local position. He entered Winchester College in 1765, and left it in 1767–8. He then proceeded to London, where he attended the lectures of Percivall Pott [q. v.] and of William and John Hunter. He received the diploma of the Surgeons' Company on 1 Sept. 1774, and in the same year began to practise his profession in London. He became about this time a member of the Medical Society of London, then newly founded, and he was afterwards elected a member of the Medical Society of Paris. The attack upon cow-pox made by Dr. Moseley, physician to the Chelsea Hospital, called forth from Ring a refutation, which procured for him, in August 1799, an acquaintance with Dr. Edward Jenner. This acquaintanceship soon ripened into cordial friendship and admiration, which continued, with certain periods of interruption, until Ring's death.

From 1799 Ring devoted the greater part of his professional life to the cause of vaccination. He investigated every adverse case that he heard of in London; he offered gratuitous vaccination to all who would accept it; and he induced the chief medical men in London who had satisfied themselves of the efficacy of vaccination to append their signatures to a document publicly acknowledging the fact that cow-pox is a much milder and safer disease than inoculated smallpox. He went to Ringwood in 1808 at the head of a deputation to investigate some supposed failures of vaccination. The anti-vaccinationists were put to shame, but party feeling ran so high that the deputies carried pistols to defend themselves in case of need.

The British Vaccine Establishment was founded in 1809, and under the name of the National Vaccine Establishment it has since become a government department for the gratuitous distribution of vaccine lymph throughout the country. Dr. Jenner was appointed the first director, and he nominated Ring to act as his principal vaccinator and inspector of stations. Professional jealousy, however, intervened. Ring was set aside and Jenner resigned his post, which was then filled by James Moore, a brother of General Sir John Moore. Ring opened and maintained on his own account a vaccinating station, which soon became popular, and here he vaccinated so many persons that Jenner, speaking of a lady who had vaccinated ten thousand persons, says that it was as nothing compared with the labours of ‘honest John Ring.’

Jenner complained to Moore, in November 1812, that ‘Ring writes but seldom now, and when he does write it is not in his old pleasant vein.’ And again, in October 1813, ‘John Ring has been in high dudgeon and broken off his correspondence with me for near a twelvemonth. I have no conception why. I wish you would find out. With all his peculiarities he is an honest fellow, and I have a great regard for him.’ Ring, as is shown by his works, was a fair poet and an elegant classical scholar. He died of apoplexy at his house in New Street, Hanover Square, London, on 7 Dec. 1821.

Besides tracts on vaccination (8vo, 1804 and 1805), Ring was author of: 1. ‘The Commemoration of Handel,’ published anonymously in 1786; 2nd edit. 8vo, 1819. 2. ‘Reflections on the Surgeons Bill,’ London, 1798, 8vo. 3. ‘A Treatise on Cow-pox,’ 2 parts, London, 1801–3, 8vo. 4. ‘The Beauties of the “Edinburgh Review,” alias the Stinkpot of Literature,’ London, 8vo, 1807. 5. ‘A Treatise on the Gout,’ London, 1811, 8vo. 6. ‘Answer to Dr. Kinglake, showing the danger of his Cooling Treatment of the Gout,’ London, 1816, 8vo. 7. ‘A Caution against Vaccine Swindlers and Impostors,’ London, 1816, 8vo.

He also translated Geddes's ‘Ode to Peace,’ 1802, 4to; Christopher Anstey's ‘Carmen Alcaicum,’ addressed to Jenner, 1804, 4to, the profits being given to the Royal Jennerian Society for the Extermination of Small-pox; and ‘The Works of Virgil, partly original and partly altered from Dryden and Pitt’ (2 vols. 8vo, London, 1820). An engraving by J. Rogers, from a portrait by S. Drummond, A.R.A., is prefixed to a short memoir in the ‘New European Magazine.’

[Obituary notices in the London Med. and Phys. Journ. xlvii. 165; New European Mag. 1824, iv. 5; Baron's Life of Edward Jenner, M.D.; Kirby's Winchester Scholars, London, 1888, p. 260; additional information kindly given to the writer by Colin Grant-Dalton, M.A., formerly vicar of Wincanton.]

D’A. P.