Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jurin, James

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JURIN, JAMES (1684–1750), physician, son of John Jurin, citizen and dyer of London, was baptised on 15 Dec. 1684, and admitted to Christ's Hospital, London, in April 1692, from St. Leonard's, Shoreditch. In 1702 he proceeded as scholar to Trinity College, Cambridge, graduated B.A. in 1705, and was elected fellow of Trinity in 1706. He was recommended to the governors of Christ's Hospital by Dr. Bentley, master of Trinity, in 1708, as ‘a youth of very great hopes,’ and Bentley arranged that he should travel as tutor to Mordecai Carey, a younger scholar of Christ's Hospital, in 1708–9. In 1709 Jurin proceeded M.A., and was appointed master of Newcastle-on-Tyne grammar school. By Bentley's advice he prepared with an original appendix a new edition of the ‘Geography’ of Bernhard Varenius. During his residence at Newcastle he gave lectures on experimental philosophy, saved 1,000l., and resolved to become a physician. He had entered at Leyden as a medical student in 1709. In 1715 he resigned his mastership, and in 1716 graduated M.D. at Cambridge. He was admitted a candidate of the College of Physicians, London, in 1718, and a fellow in 1719. He was elected F.R.S. in 1717 or 1718, and was secretary of the Royal Society from 1721 till 1727. He edited vols. xxxi–iv. of the ‘Philosophical Transactions.’ He was appointed physician to Guy's Hospital on its opening in 1725, and held the office till 1732. He was for several years one of the censors of the College of Physicians, member of the council in 1748–9, and was elected president on 19 Jan. 1750. He only survived a few weeks, dying in Lincoln's Inn Fields on 29 March 1750, in his sixty-sixth year. He left a considerable legacy to Christ's Hospital. His only son James died in 1782.

Jurin was one of the most learned men of his day. He had imbibed the Newtonian philosophy from Newton himself, and was an ardent supporter of his teaching on motion and of his system of fluxions. He made experiments on the ascent and suspension of water in capillary tubes, and wrote papers on the motion of running water, and on the measure of the force of bodies in motion. His essay ‘On Distinct and Indistinct Vision,’ appended to Dr. Robert Smith's ‘Optics,’ 1738, was the subject of a warm controversy with Benjamin Robins, F.R.S., and P. Kennedy. His papers on the motion of running water were criticised by P. A. Michellotti, whom Jurin answered. In 1724 he proposed a plan for systematic meteorological observations at different places. His experiments on the specific gravity of human blood, and still more his papers on the power of the heart, were good attempts to convert physiology into an exact science. The papers on the heart were criticised by Dr. James Keill of Northampton and by M. Senac, and Jurin replied to both. When Berkeley in the ‘Analyst’ accused mathematicians of infidelity, Jurin attacked him in two pamphlets, ‘Geometry no Friend to Infidelity’ and ‘The Minute Mathematician,’ issued under the pseudonym of ‘Philalethes Cantabrigiensis,’ (see Mathematical Works of Benjamin Robins, F.R.S., 1761, with Memoir). Under the same signature he carried on a discussion with Dr. Pemberton, in defence of Newton, in ‘The Works of the Learned’ for 1737–9. He was a good Latin scholar, and many of his papers are in Latin. Thomas Bentley's edition of Cæsar (1742) was undertaken at Jurin's suggestion, and largely consists of his notes.

Jurin early obtained a large medical practice, and gained a considerable fortune. His chief medical notoriety was obtained by the part he took in supporting the practice of inoculation for small-pox. His pamphlets, enumerated below, were powerful arguments in its favour, and they provoked opposition from conservative doctors and divines. He was one of the physicians called on to attend Robert Walpole, earl of Orford, in 1745, and to the powerful caustic medicine which he prescribed John Ranby, serjeant-surgeon to George II, attributed his death. A vigorous controversy followed.

Jurin's principal writings are as follows: 1. ‘B. Varenii Geographia Generalis,’ edited, with an appendix, by J. J., Cambridge, 1712. French translation by P. F. de Puisieux, Paris, 1755, 4 vols. 12mo. English translation, with additions, by Dugdale and P. Shaw, London, 1733. 2. ‘A Letter to Caleb Cotesworth, M.D., containing a Comparison between the Mortality of the Natural Small-pox and that given by Inoculation. To which is subjoined an Account of the Success of Inoculation in New England,’ London, 1723. 3. ‘Myotomia Reformata, or an Anatomical Treatise on the Muscles of the Human Body,’ by W. Cowper; 2nd edit., the text revised by J. Jurin, fol., London, 1724 [see Cowper, William, 1666–1709]. 4. ‘An Account of the Success of Inoculating the Small-pox in Great Britain,’ London, 1724. 5. Ditto, for the year 1724, London, 1725. 6. Ditto for 1725, London, 1726. 7. Ditto for 1726, London, 1727 (cf. ‘A Short Account of Inoculation,’ by Isaac Massey, London, 1723; ‘Reasons against Inoculation, in a Letter to Dr. Jurin,’ by Francis Howgrave, London, 1724; ‘Remarks on Dr. Jurin's last yearly Account of the Success of Inoculation,’ by Isaac Massey, London, 1727; ‘A Practical Essay concerning the Small-pox,’ by William Douglass, M.D., London, 1730). 8. ‘Dissertationes Physico-mathematicæ’ (including his principal papers read before the Royal Society), London, 1732. 9. ‘Geometry no Friend to Infidelity; or a Defence of Sir Isaac Newton and the British Mathematicians; in a Letter to the Author of the “Analyst” (i. e. Bishop Berkeley), by Philalethes Cantabrigiensis’ (i.e. J. J.), London, 1734. 10. ‘The Minute Mathematician; or the Freethinker no Just Thinker; set forth in a second Letter to the Author of the “Analyst,” by Philalethes Cantabrigiensis,’ London, 1735. 11. ‘An Account of the Effects of Soap-Lye taken internally for the Stone,’ London, 1742. 12. Second edition, with an appendix, on the use of his own preparation, Lixivium Lithontripticum,’ London, 1745. 13. ‘An Epistle to John Ranby, Esq., principal Serjeant-Surgeon to his Majesty, on … his Narrative of the last Illness of the Earl of Orford, as far as it relates to Sir Edward Hulse, Dr. Jurin, and Dr. Crowe,’ London, 1745 (probably by Jurin) (cf. ‘Advice to John Ranby,’ &c., 1745; ‘Expostulatory Address to J. R., by a Physician,’ 1745, with other controversial tracts, all in one volume in the British Museum Library, 551 a24. ‘The Charge to the Jury, or the Sum of the Evidence on the Trial of A. B. C. D. and E. F., all M.D., for the Death of one Robert at Orfud,’ (sic) London, 1745).

[Christ's Hospital, List of Exhibitioners, A. W. Lockhart, 1876; W. Trollope's Hist. of Christ's Hospital, 1834, pp. 239–41; Munk's Coll. of Phys. ii. 64–7; Nichols's Lit. Illustrations, v. 122; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 580, iii. 320, iv. 506, v. 68, 92.]

G. T. B.