Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Budd, William

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BUDD, WILLIAM (1811–1880), physician, was born at North Tawton, Devonshire, in September 1811, being a younger brother of George Budd (1808–1882) [q. v.], and like him receiving his early education at home. His medical education was divided between London, Edinburgh, and Paris; in Paris he passed four years, at the Collège de France and the École de Médecine. In 1838 he graduated M.D. at the university of Edinburgh, winning a gold medal for an essay on acute rheumatism. He served for a short time as physician to the Dreadnought seamen's hospital ship at Greenwich, but an attack of typhoid fever, from which he nearly died, obliged him to resign this position. For some time he assisted his father in his country practice at North Tawton, and here, in 1839, he began his careful study of the origin and transmission of typhoid fever, which was to be his chief life-work. Being personally acquainted with every inhabitant, and the medical attendant of almost every one, he enjoyed unusual opportunities of getting to the bottom of any circumstance on which exhaustive investigation was necessary. In 1842 he settled at Bristol, where he became physician to St. Peter's Hospital, and in 1847 physician to the Bristol Royal Infirmary, which post he held till 1862. For some years he lectured on medicine in the Bristol medical school, and sought through teaching and contributions to medical journals to make known his views on the nature and mode of propagation of zymotic diseases, and to impress on the medical profession and the public generally the paramount necessity of stringent modes of disinfection, and the adoption of other general sanitary measures. Among the latter he regarded a full supply of pure water as of the first importance, and he was one of the most zealous promoters of the Bristol waterworks. In 1870 he was elected F.R.S. He was an accurate draughtsman and good photographer, and used his accomplishments with great advantage in his investigations; while a good knowledge of French, German, and Italian enabled him to keep abreast of the advance of medical science in the continental schools. His energy and industry were unbounded, but the attempt to carry on at the same time original research and a large private practice proved too great a strain for his constitution, which, though originally strong, had been weakened by two attacks of fever. In 1873 his health broke down, and he was compelled to cease from active professional work. He died at Clevedon 9 Jan. 1880.

Budd possessed, with extensive learning and great practical knowledge of disease, clearness of mental vision and remarkable strength of conviction, so that he expressed himself in a dogmatic yet singularly attractive manner in enforcing his views, which being at the time novel met with strenuous opposition. His kindness of disposition and freedom from jealousy were at all times manifest. His eloquence was impressive, and his logical power as shown in tracing out the causes of disease was of the highest order. His principal work, ‘Typhoid Fever; its Nature, Mode of Spreading, and Prevention,’ London, 1873, reproducing in a more complete form what he had previously published in the medical journals, proved beyond dispute that typhoid fever is contagious, and is propagated chiefly by matter discharged from the intestine. In it he traced the course of an outbreak of the disease in North Tawton in 1839, and showed how a number of cases which occurred in various localities had been transferred in definite ways from case to case. Contaminated water, sewer air, hands, bedding and clothes were proved to have been the means of propagation in different cases; and the frequent long-continued immunity from typhoid amid impure surroundings is powerfully contrasted with its virulence when definitely introduced.

When Asiatic cholera appeared in Bristol in 1866, the energetic measures of prevention advocated and carried out by Budd successfully retarded its progress, and stamped it out. In 1849 the deaths from cholera in Bristol were 1,979, in 1866 only twenty-nine, though the disease appeared in twenty-six different localities, and very malignantly.

Budd also made careful studies of contagious diseases of animals, including cattle, sheep, and pigs. He arrived at the conclusion that several of those contagious diseases could be best dealt with by immediate slaughter of animals which became infected. When the terrible rinderpest broke out in England in 1866, Budd was loud in his recommendation of ‘a poleaxe and a pit of quicklime’ as the true solution of the difficulty; and though at first ridiculed, this view was ultimately and successfully adopted.

Professor Tyndall, whose persevering and ingenious researches into the germ theory of diseases are well known, writes thus: ‘Dr. William Budd I hold to have been a man of the highest genius. There was no physician in England who, during his lifetime, showed anything like his penetration in the interpretation of zymotic disease. For a great number of years he conducted an uphill fight against the whole of his medical colleagues, the only sympathy which he could count upon during this depressing time being that of the venerable Sir Thomas Watson. Over and over again Sir Thomas Watson has spoken to me of William Budd's priceless contributions to medical literature. His doctrines are now everywhere victorious, each succeeding discovery furnishing an illustration of his marvellous prescience.’

Besides his principal work above mentioned, Budd published numerous treatises and papers, all important, of which the following are the chief: 1. ‘Contributions to the Pathology of the Spinal Cord,’ ‘Medico-Chirurg. Trans.’ xxii. (1839), pp. 153–90. 2. ‘On Diseases which affect corresponding parts of the body in a symmetrical manner,’ ‘Medico-Chirurg. Trans.’ xxv. (1842), pp. 100–166. 3. ‘Malignant Cholera, its Mode of Propagation and its Prevention,’ London, 1849. 4. ‘Researches on Gout,’ ‘Medico-Chirurg. Trans.’ xxxviii. (1855), pp. 233–46. 5. ‘Variola Ovina, Sheep's Small-pox; or the Laws of Contagious Epidemics illustrated by an Experimental Type,’ 1863. 6. ‘The Siberian Cattle Plague, or the Typhoid Fever of the Ox,’ Bristol, 1865. 7. ‘Scarlet Fever and its Prevention,’ reprinted from ‘Brit. Med. Jour.’ 9 Jan. 1869, London, 1869, fifth edition 1871. 8. ‘Cholera and Disinfection, or Asiatic Cholera in Bristol in 1866’ (1871). To the very last Budd was engaged in extensive investigations in regard to phthisis and cancer, the causation of both of which he attributed to the development of organisms of external origin, and he left unpublished manuscripts on these subjects. In the ‘Lancet,’ 1867, vol. i. p. 451, is a brief summary of his views on the nature and mode of propagation of phthisis. His first ideas on the subject dated from August 1856, and after that date much of his time was occupied in accumulating and weighing evidence bearing on the subject. Another contribution of his (‘Lancet,’ 1861, i. 337) on the contagion of yellow fever is of considerable value.

[Obituary notices, 1880: Times, Jan. 12, Academy, i. 46, Lancet, i. 148; manuscript letter from Professor Tyndall; information from surviving brothers.]

G. T. B.