Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Alderson, John

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ALDERSON, JOHN, M.D. (1758–1829), physician, belonged to a family distinguished by its varied intellectual gifts. He was born at Lowestoft, the son of a dissenting minister, the Rev. J. Alderson, whose death (1760) was hastened by the adverse termination of a lawsuit. Mr. Elisha Barlow, a merchant of Lowestoft, deploring the narrow means of his minister, who had a numerous family, bequeathed a good estate at Mutford for the augmentation of the stipend, on the condition that, whenever Mr. Alderson should withdraw from the church, the estate was to devolve on him and his heirs for ever. Thereupon the whole body of dissenters in the town, out of regard for their pastor, drew up an instrument by which they expelled him from the church in order that he might acquire the estate. They afterwards re-elected him to the pastoral office. Their good intentions were however defeated by the heirs-at-law, who disputed the legality of the bequest in the court of Chancery on the statute of mortmain, and gained their suit. Mr. Alderson was shortly after taken ill while preaching, and died on reaching his home. His son John, after receiving a regular medical training, began to practise in Hull, and soon became the chief physician of the town. In 1788 he published at Hull ‘An Essay on the Nature and Origin of the Contagion of Fever,’ and four years later, ‘An Essay on the Rhus Toxicodendron, or Sumach, and its Efficacy in Paralysis,’ which passed through three editions between 1794 and 1805. In 1795 he was elected physician to the Hull Infirmary, and in commemoration of his services there, and of the public spirit he had exhibited in founding and presiding over various literary and scientific institutions in the town, a statue of the doctor was, in 1833, erected by subscription on the lawn in front of the infirmary, at a cost of 300l. He died 16 Sept. 1829. Dr. Alderson was also the author of a work not altogether of a professional character, entitled ‘An Essay on Apparitions accounted for independently of Preternatural Agency,’ 8vo, London, 1823. In this work he has given some extremely curious cases of mental illusion which came under his own immediate observation. He published two editions of a treatise ‘On the Improvement of Poor Soils’ (1802 and 1807) and several editions of ‘Orthographical Exercises.’

[Gillingwater's History of Lowestoft, pp. 366–7; Galton's English Men of Science, p. 41; Gent. Mag. Nov. 1830, p. 451; Biog. Dict. Soc. D.U.K.]

R. H.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.5
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
243 ii 5f.e. Alderson, John: for 1758 read 1757
3f.e. after born insert 4 June 1757
244 i 13-12f.e. omit and several .... Exercises’