Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mortimer, Cromwell

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

MORTIMER, CROMWELL (d. 1752), physician, born in Essex, was second son of John Mortimer [q. v.] by his third wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel Sanders of Derbyshire. He was educated under Boerhaave at Leyden University, where he was admitted in the medical division on 7 Sept. 1719, and graduated M.D. on 9 Aug. 1724. He became a licentiate of the College of Physicians, London, on 25 June 1725, and a fellow on 30 Sept. 1729, and he was created M.D. of Cambridge, comitiis regiis, on 11 May 1728. He practised at first in Hanover Square, London, but removed in 1729, at the request of Sir Hans Sloane, to Bloomsbury Square, where he had the benefit of Sloane's collections and conversation, and assisted to 1740 in prescribing for his patients. For ten years Mortimer had the sole care, as physician, of a London infirmary, and in 1744, when resident in Dartmouth Street, Westminster, he issued a circular, describing the system of payment for his services which he had adopted. This step did not tend to make him more popular with his professional colleagues. Some of the apothecaries refused to attend patients when he was called in. A satirical print of him, designed by Hogarth and engraved by Rigou, with several lines from Pope appended to it, was published about 1745 (Catalogue of Satirical Prints at British Museum, vol. iii. pt. i. p. 541), and in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' for 1780, page 510, he is dubbed 'an impertinent, assuming empiric.'

Mortimer was elected F.S.A. on 21 March 1734, and F.R.S. on 4 July 1728, and, mainly through the interest of Sloane, was second or acting secretary to the latter body from 30 Nov. 1730 until his death. From 28 July 1737 he was a member and correspondent of the Gentlemen's Society at Spalding, and he was also a corresponding memberof the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris. About 1738 'his vanity prompted him to write the history of the learned societies of Great Britain and Ireland, to have been prefixed to a volume of the "Philosophical Transactions," ' whereupon Maurice Johnson [q.v.] furnished him with a history of the Spalding society, and with many curious particulars of the Society of Antiquaries, but these materials were never utilised, and a long complaint from Johnson on his neglect is in Nichols's 'Literary Anecdotes,' vi. 2-3. Mortimer was absorbed in new schemes. In 1747 he proposed to establish in the College of Arms a registry for dissenters, and articles of agreement, approved by all parties, were drawn up. It was opened on 20 Feb. 1747-8. but did not succeed, through a misunderstanding between the ministers and the deputies of the congregations. About 1750 he promoted the scheme for the incorporation of the Society of Antiquaries, and he was one of the first members of its council, November 1751. On the death of his elder brother, Samuel Mortimer, a lawyer, he inherited the family estate of Toppingo Hall, Hatfield Peverel, Essex. He died there on 7 Jan. 1752, was buried on 13 Jan., and a monument was erected to his memory. His library was on sale at Thomas Osborne's on 26 Nov. 1753. By his wife Mary he had an only son, Hans, of Lincoln's Inn and Cauldthorp, near Burton-on-Trent, who about 1765 sold the property in Essex to the Earl of Abercorn.

Mortimer's dissertation 'De Ingressu Humorum in Corpus Humanum' for his doctor's degree at Leyden was printed in 1724, and was dedicated to Sloane. It was also inserted in the collections of medical treatises by Baron A. von Haller and F. J. de Oberkamp. His 'Address to the Publick, containing Narratives of the Effects of certain Chemical Remedies in most Diseases' appeared in 1745. The circular letter on his system of remuneration was published as an appendix to it and inserted in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' for 1779, pp. 541-2, and in Nichols's 'Literary Anecdotes,' v. 424. An English translation of the 'Elements of the Art of Assaying Metals. By Johann Andreas Cramer, M.D.,' to which Mortimer contributed notes, observations, and an appendix of authors, appeared in 1741, and a second edition was published in 1764. As secretary of the Royal Society he edited vols. xxxvi. to xlvi. of the 'Philosophical Transactions,' and contributed to them numerous papers (WATT, Bibl. Brit.) The most important, dealing with the then distemper in horned cattle, were inserted in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' for 1746, pp. 650-1, and 1747, pp. 55-6 (cf. Gent. May. 1749, pp. 491-5). Joseph Rogers, M.D., addressed to Mortimer in 1733 'Some Observations on the Translalation and Abridgment of Dr. Boerhaave's Chymistry,' and Boerhaave communicated to him in September 1738 the symptoms of his illness (Burton, Memoir of Boerhaave, p. 69). Some account of the Roman remains found by him near Maldon in Essex is in the 'Archæologia,' xvi. 149, four letters from him, and numerous communications to him are in the possession of the Royal Society, and a letter sent by him to Dr. Waller on 28 July 1729 is printed in the 'Reliquiæ Galeanæ' (Bibl. Topogr. Brit. iii. 155-6). He drew up an index to the fishes for the 1743 edition of Willoughby's four books on the history of fish, and Dr. Munk assigns to him a volume on 'The Volatile Spirit of Sulphur,' 1744. When Kalm came to England, on his way to America to report on its natural products, he visited Mortimer, and at his house made the acquaintance of many scientific men.

[Gent. Mag. 1752 p. 44, 1777 p. 266, 1780 pp. 17, 510; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. v. 7, 27, 423–6, 433, vi. 2–3, 99, 144–5, ix. 615; Munk's Coll. of Phys. 2nd edit. ii. 11; Memoirs of Martyn, 1830, pp. 40–2; Morant's Essex, ii. 133; Stukeley's Memoirs (Surtees Soc.), i. 233–4, 235, ii. 10–11, 320, iii. 6–7, 468; Dobson's Hogarth, p. 324; Thomson's Royal Soc. pp. 8, 10–11; Noble's College of Arms, p. 409; Cat. of MSS. and Letters of Royal Soc. passim; Kalm's Travels (trans. Lucas, 1892), pp. 19, 40, 61, 114–15.]

W. P. C.