1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Beddoes, Thomas

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BEDDOES, THOMAS (1760-1808), English physician and scientific writer, was born at Shiffnall in Shropshire on the 13th of April 1760. After being educated at Bridgnorth grammar school and at Pembroke College, Oxford, he studied medicine in London under John Sheldon (1752-1808). In 1784 he published a translation of L. Spallanzani’s Dissertations on Natural History, and in 1785 produced a translation, with original notes, of T. O. Bergman’s Essays on Elective Attractions. He took his degree of doctor of medicine at Oxford in 1786, and, after visiting Paris, where he became acquainted with Lavoisier, was appointed reader in chemistry at Oxford University in 1788. His lectures attracted large and appreciative audiences; but his sympathy with the French Revolution exciting a clamour against him, he resigned his readership in 1792. In the following year he published Observations on the Nature of Demonstrative Evidence, and the History of Isaac Jenkins, a story which powerfully exhibits the evils of drunkenness, and of which 40,000 copies are reported to have been sold. About the same time he began to work at his project for the establishment of a “Pneumatic Institution” for treating disease by the inhalation of different gases. In this he was assisted by Richard Lovell Edgeworth, whose daughter, Anna, became his wife in 1794. In 1798 the institution was established at Clifton, its first superintendent being Humphry Davy, who investigated the properties of nitrous oxide in its laboratory. The original aim of the institution was gradually abandoned; it became an ordinary sick-hospital, and was relinquished by its projector in the year before his death, which occurred on the 24th of December 1808. Beddoes was a man of great powers and wide acquirements, which he directed to noble and philanthropic purposes. He strove to effect social good by popularizing medical knowledge, a work for which his vivid imagination and glowing eloquence eminently fitted him. Besides the writings mentioned above, he was the author of Political Pamphlets (1795-1797), a popular Essay on Consumption (1799), which won the admiration of Kant, an Essay on Fever (1807), and Hygeia, or Essays Moral and Medical (1807). He also edited John Brown’s Elements of Medicine (1795), and Contributions to Physical and Medical Knowledge, principally from the West of England (1799).

A life of Beddoes by Dr John E. Stock was published in 1810.