Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Foot, Jesse

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FOOT, JESSE (1744–1826), surgeon, was born at Charlton in Wiltshire in 1744. He received a medical education in London, becoming a member of the Surgeons' Company, and about 1766 went to the West Indies, where he practised for three years in the island of Nevis, returning in 1769. After this he went to St. Petersburg, where he became ‘a privileged practitioner of the College of St. Petersburg,’ as he afterwards described himself, and practised there some time profitably. Returning to England, he was appointed house-surgeon to the Middlesex Hospital, and on the conclusion of his term of office began practice in Salisbury Street, Strand, afterwards removing to Dean Street, Soho, where he had a large practice for many years. He died at Ilfracombe on 27 Oct. 1826.

Foot's principal branch of practice may be gathered from the titles of his numerous professional books and pamphlets. His belief in his own merits was great, and he aspired to surpass John Hunter in fame; but finding himself unable to succeed, he endeavoured to defame his rival, to prove that his discoveries were plagiarisms or of little merit, to denounce him as an embittered, ill-tempered man, and to represent that his works were written by Smollett. His ‘Life of Hunter’ shows in almost every page the intense jealousy by which he was actuated. Foot's inclination to biography is also seen in his lives of the seducer and duellist Bowes and his wife, Mary Eleanor, countess of Strathmore [q. v.], whom he attended professionally for thirty-three years, and of his friend Arthur Murphy [q. v.], whose executor he was. He was also strongly prejudiced in favour of the West Indian planters and their treatment of their slaves, and his vigorous ‘Defence’ ran through three large editions in three weeks. He attacked Wilberforce and the abolition party on several occasions.

Foot wrote: 1. ‘A Critical Inquiry into the Ancient and Modern Manner of Treating Diseases of the Urethra, and an Improved Method of Cure,’ London, 1774; 6th edit. 1811. 2. ‘Observations on the New Opinions of John Hunter in his Treatise on the Venereal Disease,’ in three parts, 1786–7. 3. ‘An Essay on the Bite of a Mad Dog, with Observations on John Hunter's Treatment of the Case of Master R—— [Rowley], and also a Recital of the Successful Treatment of Two Cases,’ 1788; 2nd edit. 1791. 4. ‘A New Discovered Fact of a relative nature in the Venereal Poison,’ 1790. 5. ‘A Defence of the Planters in the West Indies, comprised in Four Arguments,’ &c., 1792. 6. ‘A Complete Treatise on the Origin, Theory, and Cure of the Lues Venerea and Obstruction in the Urethra, illustrated by a great variety of Cases, being a course of twenty-three lectures read in Dean Street, Soho, 1790 and 1791;’ 4to, 1792; new edit., 8vo, 1820, amended and corrected; German translation, Leipzig, 1793–4.

  1. ‘A Plan for Preventing the Fatal Effects of the Bite of a Mad Dog, with Cases,’ 1792.
  2. ‘Life of John Hunter,’ 1794; 2nd edit. 1797.
  3. ‘Dialogues between a Pupil of the late John Hunter and Jesse Foot, including passages in Darwin's “Zoonomia,”’ 1795.
  4. ‘Cases of the Successful Practice of the Vesicæ Lotura in the Cure of Diseased Bladders,’ pt. i. 1798, pt. ii. 1803.
  5. ‘Observations principally upon the Speech of Mr. Wilberforce on his Motion in the House of Commons, 30 May 1804, for the Abolition of the Slave Trade,’ 1805.
  6. ‘Important Researches upon the Existence, Nature, and Consummation of Venereal Infection in Pregnant Women, New-born Infants, and Nurses, by the late P. S. O. Mahon, contrasted with the Opinions of the late John Hunter upon the subject,’ 1808.
  7. ‘The Lives of Andrew Robinson Bowes, Esq., and the Countess of Strathmore, written from thirty-three years' professional attendance, from Letters and other well-authenticated Documents,’ 1810.
  8. ‘Life of Arthur Murphy, Esq.,’1811.
  9. ‘Review of Everard Home's Observations on the Diseases of the Prostate Gland,’ 1812.
  10. ‘Facts relative to the Prevention of Hydrophobia,’ in ‘Medical Facts and Observations,’ iii. 33.
  11. ‘Two Letters on the Necessity of a Public Inquiry into Cause of the Death of the Princess Charlotte and her Infant,’ 1817.

See also for several minor contributions ‘Index to the London Medical and Physical Journal,’ vols. i–xl., 1820.

Foot, Jesse, the younger (1780–1850), surgeon, was not the son but the nephew of the preceding. He practised for many years as a surgeon at Clarendon, Jamaica, returned home about 1819, and lived with his uncle in Dean Street, Soho, for two years, marrying Miss Foot (presumably his cousin) on 4 Sept. 1819. He succeeded to his uncle's practice, and in 1826 brought out a new edition of his work on the urethra, which is described as the eighth edition. He became surgeon to the Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital. He published ‘Ophthalmic Memoranda,’ 1838, and wrote several papers in the ‘Lancet’ and the ‘London Medical and Surgical Journal,’ enumerated in Déchambre. In 1834 he published ‘The Medical Pocket-book for 1835.’ Foot died at Ilfracombe, aged 70, on 5 Jan. 1850 (Gent. Mag. 1850, i. 225).

[Georgian Era, ii. 574; Déchambre's Dictionnaire Encyclopédique des Sciences Médicales, 4th ser. vol. iii. 1879; Foot's Works.]

G. T. B.