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

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RYMER, JAMES (fl. 1775–1822), medical writer, a native of Scotland, is said to be related to the family of Thomas Rymer [q. v.], compiler of the ‘Fœdera.’ His father died when he was young, but he was carefully educated by his mother. After having served an apprenticeship to a surgeon and apothecary, he studied anatomy and medicine at Edinburgh University. In 1770 he left Edinburgh for London. He was there appointed surgeon's mate on H.M.S. Montreal, with which he made two voyages in the Mediterranean and Levant. Soon afterwards he joined the Trident, the ship of Rear-admiral Sir Peter Denis; subsequently went a voyage to Nevis in the West Indies, and in December 1775 became surgeon to the sloop Hazard. He very soon exchanged into the Surprise, commanded by Captain Robert Linzee, which reached Quebec in May 1776, and thence accompanied Admiral Montagu's squadron to St. John's, Newfoundland. On the return voyage, in November 1776, putrid fever broke out. Rymer was next attached as surgeon to the sloop Alderney, which was stationed at Great Yarmouth. While there he wrote a ‘Sketch of Great Yarmouth, with some Reflections on Cold Bathing,’ 1777, 12mo. In 1778, in which year he says he published a volume of ‘Remarks on the Earl of Chesterfield's Letters,’ he was transferred to the Conquistador, which was stationed at the Nore for the reception and distribution of impressed men and volunteers. After fifteen months' service he was transferred to the Marlborough, which was ordered for foreign service. Rymer, who attributed his transference to the dislike of his commanding officer, wrote a somewhat scurrilous pamphlet under the title ‘Transplantation, or Poor Crocus pluckt up by the Root,’ 1779. He appears to have remained in the navy till 1782. On 2 June 1815 he was elected F.R.C.S. (Lond.), and seems to have practised afterwards at Reigate and Ramsgate. He was living at the latter place in 1841–2. His last surviving daughter died at Brighton on 13 June 1855 (Gent. Mag. 1855, ii. 331).

Rymer wrote, besides the works already noticed:

  1. ‘Introduction to the Study of Pathology on a Natural Plan, containing an Essay on Fevers,’ 1775, 8vo.
  2. ‘Description of the Island of Nevis, with an Account of its Principal Diseases,’ &c., 1776, 8vo.
  3. ‘An Essay on Medical Education, with Advice to Young Gentlemen who go into the Navy as Mates,’ 1776, 8vo.
  4. ‘The Practice of Navigation on a New Plan, by means of a Quadrant of the Difference of Latitude and Departure,’ 1778, 4to.
  5. ‘Observations and Remarks respecting the more effectual means of Preservation of Wounded Seamen and Mariners on board H.M.'s ships in Time of Action,’ 1780, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1782.
  6. ‘Letter on the Scurvy,’ 1782, 8vo.
  7. ‘Chemical Reflections relating to the Nature, Causes, Prevention, and Cure of some Diseases, particularly the Sea Scurvy,’ 1784, 8vo.
  8. ‘A Tract upon Indigestion and the Hypochondriac Disease, and on Atomic Gout,’ 1785, 8vo; 5th edit. 1789.
  9. ‘On the Nature and Symptoms of Gout,’ 1785, 8vo.
  10. ‘Physiological Conjectures concerning certain Functions of the Human Œconomy in Fœtus and in the Adult,’ 1787, 8vo.
  11. ‘A Short Account of the Method of treating Scrofular and other Glandular Affections,’ 1790, 8vo.
  12. ‘Essay on Pestilential Diseases,’ 1805, 8vo.
  13. ‘On the Nutriferous System in Men and all Creatures which have Livers,’ 1808, 8vo.
  14. ‘A Treatise on Diet and Regimen, to which are added a Nosological Table, or Medical Chest Directory, Prescriptions,’ &c., 1828, 8vo; dedicated to Dr. Abernethy.

Rymer also contributed to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for June 1822 (Supplement) ‘Observations on Hydrophobia,’ for which he recommended the old remedy of immersion in cold or tepid water, with injections of the same; and he translated ‘Analysis of the Section of the Symphysis of the Ossa Pubis, as recommended in cases of Difficult Labour and Deformed Pelvis. From the French of Alphonse le Roy,’ 1783.

[Rymer himself tells the story of his early life in Transplantation (1779), mentioned in the text. See also Lists of the Royal College of Surgeons; Lit. Mem. Living Authors, 1798; Biogr. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816; Watt's Bibl. Brit. i. 824; Cat. Roy. Med. and Chirurg. Society; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. Le G. N.