Wiseman, Richard (DNB00)

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WISEMAN, RICHARD (1622?–1676), surgeon, born in London between 1621 and 1623, was possibly the illegitimate son of Sir Richard Wiseman, bart. (d. 1643), of Thundersley Hall in Essex. About January 1637 he was apprenticed at the Barber-Surgeons' Hall to Richard Smith, surgeon. His master was probably a naval surgeon, for as soon as Wiseman's apprenticeship was ended, but before he was admitted to the freedom of the company, he seems to have entered the Dutch naval service at a time when that nation was engaged in war with Spain. Here he saw much active service, but in 1643, or early in 1644, he joined the royalist army of the west, then under the nominal command of the Prince of Wales. He was present at the surprise of the Weymouth forts on 9 Feb. 1644–5. He remained in Weymouth during the siege, and subsequently seems to have accompanied the troops into Somerset and Cornwall, for he was present at the siege at Taunton, and took part in the fighting of Truro. The army was then under the general command of Lord Hopton, and Wiseman seems to have been especially attached to the guards, for he describes how they were beaten, and how he himself ran away in May 1645. After the rout at Truro, he says that he was the only surgeon who continuously attended Prince Charles from the west of England to Scilly, and afterwards to Jersey, France, Holland, and Scotland. He was at first merely attached to the troops in attendance upon the prince, but when Surgeon Pyle returned to England from Jersey, perhaps upon a political mission, Lord Hopton seems to have recommended Wiseman as a proper person to become the prince's immediate medical attendant. Wiseman therefore accompanied Prince Charles from Jersey to France, and from France to The Hague, where news arrived in February 1649 of the execution of Charles I. From The Hague Wiseman accompanied Charles II to Breda, thence to Flanders and back to France, arriving at St. Germains in August 1649. He then went to Jersey again, and when Charles left Holland in June 1650 Wiseman accompanied him to Scotland. He was taken prisoner at Worcester (3 Sept. 1651) and marched to Chester. He was kept in captivity for many weeks, though he was occasionally permitted by the governor to exercise his professional skill.

Having procured a pass, he arrived in London about February 1651–2, and at once made himself free of the Barber-Surgeons' Company. His admission to the freedom was ‘per servicium,’ and it is dated 23 March 1651–2. He then acted for a time as assistant to Edward Molines of St. Thomas's Hospital, but soon set up in practice for himself, living in the Old Bailey at the sign of the King's Head, where he was much frequented by the royalists from all parts of the kingdom. Early in 1654 he was rearrested on a charge of assisting Read, one of his patients, to escape from the Tower, and in March 1654 he was sent a prisoner to Lambeth House (now Lambeth Palace). It appears that during his imprisonment he was permitted to practise, and that he owed his liberty to the intercession of his friends.

There seems to be some ground for supposing that Wiseman spent a part of his time in the Spanish navy between the period of his release from Lambeth and the eve of the Restoration. His writings, however, show that he did not leave London for at least two years after his imprisonment, and he was in England again at some time in 1657. Yet he says that he served for three years in the service of the Spanish king, a part of the time being spent in the tropics and some part at Dunkirk, then held by the Spaniards.

Early in 1660 he seems to have returned to his house in the Old Bailey, where he was living at the time of the return of Charles II; but shortly after the Restoration he moved westward to Covent Garden, then recently built, and forming an outskirt of London. Ten days after the arrival of Charles II in London, on 8 June 1660, Wiseman was made ‘surgeon in ordinary for the person.’ The appointment was made at the instance of the king himself, for it was supernumerary to the regular establishment, and it was not until 5 Aug. 1661 that Wiseman was formally appointed surgeon by royal warrant at the usual salary of 40l. a year. He was promoted to the grade of principal surgeon and serjeant-surgeon to the king on 15 Feb. 1671–2, and on 25 March he was duly sworn into office. In June 1661 a grant of an annuity or pension of 150l. a year had been conferred upon him, and it was renewed in February 1674–5, with the statement that it was a pension for life, and that it was to commence from 25 March 1671–2. He was elected a member of the Barber-Surgeons' court of assistants in 1664, and in the following year was appointed master of the company, though he had never filled the subordinate offices of warden. He died suddenly at Bath about 20 Aug. 1676, but was buried at the upper end of the church of St. Paul in Covent Garden, London, on 29 Aug.

Wiseman's first wife, named Dorothy, died on 23 Feb. 1674, and was buried in the chancel of St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden; his second wife was Mary, daughter of Sir Richard Mauleverer of Allerton Mauleverer in Yorkshire, and granddaughter of Sir Thomas Mauleverer [q. v.] the regicide. His only child was a posthumous son, who was buried near his father in November 1678. His widow married Thomas Harrison of Gray's Inn, the lawyer who settled her husband's affairs, and died in February 1678.

Wiseman deserves notice as the first of the really great surgeons who lifted the surgical profession from its state of subordination to the physicians. His work was continued by Samuel Sharp (1700?–1778) [q. v.], by Percivall Pott [q. v.], and by John Hunter (1728–1793) [q. v.], until the social position of a surgeon was sufficiently high to enable the sovereign to confer hereditary rank upon him as in the case of Sir Astley Paston Cooper and Sir Benjamin Brodie. Wiseman was professionally the descendant of the great surgeons of the reign of Elizabeth, Clowes, Gale, and perhaps Read and Halle. Like them, he was essentially a clinical observer; unlike them, it is possible to find in his writings some trace of a scientific spirit. His cases are clearly described, and their treatment is carried out to a successful issue upon a rational plan. A fervent royalist, he believed in the royal touch for the cure of scrofula even when it was applied through so degenerate a hand as that of his master. He believed too in the miracles wrought by the blood of Charles I, yet he married the granddaughter of a regicide.

A miniature in watercolours, dated 1660, by Samuel Cooper, is at Belvoir Castle in the possession of the Duke of Rutland, and is the picture of a man aged about forty years. A life-size half-length in oval attributed to Sir Balthazar Gerbier (1591–1667) is in the secretary's office at the Royal College of Surgeons of England in Lincoln's Inn Fields. It represents Wiseman about ten years older than Cooper's portrait, and obviously in delicate health.

Wiseman's works are written in so plain and simple a style that they were selected by Dr. Johnson, in the compilation of his dictionary, as a mine of good surgical nomenclature. They are: 1. ‘A Treatise of Wounds,’ London, 1672, 8vo (printed by Richard Royston). 2. ‘Severall Chirurgical Treatises,’ London, 1676, fol. (Royston and Took); 2nd edit. 1686; 3rd edit. 1696; 4th edit. 1705; 5th edit. 1719; 6th edit. 1734. A pirated edition was published by Samuel Clement at the Swan in St. Paul's Churchyard in 1692. It is called the second edition, but it seems to have been made by printing a new title-page and inserting it into copies of the 1676 and 1686 editions.

[Longmore's Biographical Study of Richard Wiseman, London, 1891; manuscript account by the late James Dixon; contributions towards a memoir of Richard Wiseman, Medical Times and Gazette, 1872, ii. 441; Asclepiad, 1886, iii. 231–255; Wiseman's Works.]

D’A. P.