Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Macbride, David

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1453259Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 34 — Macbride, David1893William Arthur Jobson Archbold

MACBRIDE, DAVID (1726–1778), medical writer, born at Ballymoney, co. Antrim, 26 April 1726, was son of Robert MacBride, presbyterian minister there [see under McBride, John, 1651?–1718]. His mother's name was Boyd. He was educated at the public school of the village, and apprenticed to a local surgeon. He was for a short time surgeon's mate on a hospital ship and surgeon in the navy, and he acquired an acquaintance with the diseases of seamen which he afterwards turned to advantage. After the peace (1748) he attended lectures on anatomy by Alexander Monro ‘primus’ [q. v.] (in Edinburgh), and, going to London, he heard William Hunter on the same subject, and Smellie on midwifery. In 1749 he returned to Ballymoney, but moved to Dublin in 1751. He joined, and read papers before, the Medico-Philosophical Society there (established in 1756), and after the death of Charles Smith in 1762 he became its secretary. His practice was small until 1764, when the publication of his ‘Experimental Essays’ brought him into notice. The university of Glasgow created him M.D. 27 Nov. 1764, and in 1777 his professional income exceeded 1,700l. In 1762 Macbride communicated his views on the treatment of scurvy to his friend Dr. George Cleghorn [q. v.], through whom they reached William Hunter and Henry Tone, one of the commissioners for taking care of sick and wounded seamen. Macbride advised the use of fresh wort, or infusion of malt, and the lords of the admiralty gave orders that the method should be tried at Portsmouth and Plymouth. Nothing further, however, seems to have been done officially, and Macbride's specific was eventually quite superseded by lemon-juice, which had been recommended by James Lind [q. v.] in his ‘Treatise on the Scurvy’ in 1754. But John Macbride, a brother of David, who was commander of H.M.S. Jason, made a successful experiment with the cure in a voyage taken in 1765–7, and the ship's surgeon, Alexander Young, sent his journal to David Macbride, who published it as an appendix to his ‘Historical Account.’ In the winter of 1776–7 Macbride commenced lecturing on medicine in his own house. In December 1767 he made a discovery in the art of tanning, advocating the use of lime water in certain parts of the process. For this he was, on 31 March 1768, made an honorary member of the Dublin Royal Society, which awarded him a silver medal on 14 April following. The Society of Arts of London subsequently gave him a gold medal. On 14 Nov. 1769 he petitioned the Irish House of Commons for aid in developing his invention, and on 19 Nov. a committee was appointed, which reported favourably; no aid seems, however, to have been given. In 1777 he sent over to England by Dr. Morton what was said to be the original of the solemn league and covenant, which he had inherited from his grandfather. In his last years the extent of his professional labours injured his health. He died at his house in Cavendish Row, Dublin, on 28 Dec. 1778; he was buried in St. Audoen's Church there. His portrait, by Reynolds of Dublin, was engraved by J. T. Smith in 1797 in London, and a reduced engraving by William Home Lizars [q. v.] appeared in the ‘Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science’ for 1847. Macbride married, first, on 20 Nov. 1753, Margaret Armstrong; secondly, on 5 June 1762, Dorcas, widow of George Cumming; he left no issue. He had a sister Mary and the brother John referred to above. A portrait after Reynolds was engraved by Smith (Evans, Cat. of Engraved Portraits, ii. 218). Macbride was a chemist as well as a physician. His essay ‘On the Nature and Properties of Fixed Air’ in his ‘Experimental Essays’ to a slight extent anticipated the discoveries of Cavendish. He published: 1. ‘Experimental Essays,’ London, 1764, 8vo; 2nd edit. enlarged, 1767; another edit. 1776. It is said to have been translated into French and German. 2. ‘Historical Account of the New Method of Treating the Scurvy at Sea,’ London, 1768, 8vo. 3. Introduction to the ‘Theory and Practice of Physic,’ London, 1772, 4to; 2nd and enlarged edit. Dublin, 1776, 2 vols. 8vo. This work grew out of his lectures; it was translated into Latin, and published at Utrecht in 1774. He also contributed a few medical papers to scientific periodicals. His ‘Account of the Improved Method of Tanning Leather’ was published in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ for 1778; an Italian account appeared in vol. ix. (1786) of ‘Opuscoli Scelti,’ published at Milan. ‘The Principles of Virtue and Morality,’ said to have been left by Macbride in manuscript, was published, Boston, 1796, as part of ‘The Moral Library.’

[Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science, 1847, new ser. iii. 281–90; Nichols's Lit. Illustr. i. 139–40; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Saunders's Newsletter, 29 Dec. 1778; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

W. A. J. A.