Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Seymour, Edward James

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SEYMOUR, EDWARD JAMES (1796–1866), physician and medical writer, was the third son of William Seymour of 65 Margaret Street, Cavendish Square, London, by his wife, Thyphena Letithœa, eldest daughter of Daniel Foulston of London. His father, a member of a family settled in Lincolnshire in the middle of the seventeenth century, was an attorney-at-law, who resided at Brighton for thirty years, and was a magistrate and deputy-lieutenant for the county of Sussex, and chairman of the quarter sessions. The son, born on 30 March 1796, was baptised at the church of St. Nicholas, Lower Tooting. He received his education at Richmond School, Surrey, and at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in January 1816, M.A. in 1819, and M.D. in 1826. He had a license ‘ad practicandum’ from his university in 1822. He also studied medicine in London, Edinburgh, and Paris; he was admitted an inceptor candidate of the College of Physicians on 22 Dec. 1823, a candidate on 30 Sept. 1826, and a fellow on 1 Oct. 1827. At the college he subsequently held the posts of Gulstonian lecturer in 1829, censor in 1830, Croonian lecturer in 1831, and consiliarius in 1836.

As the law at that time did not permit physicians to practise in London under the age of twenty-six, the first years of his professional life were passed in Italy, and chiefly at Florence, where he made a large income and formed a connection that was of advantage to him in after life. In 1823 he returned to England, and, establishing himself at 23 George Street, Hanover Square, soon acquired a good practice. On 28 Nov. 1828 he was elected physician to St. George's Hospital; he held the post till 1847, and rose to be senior physician. He was remarkable for his facility in communicating knowledge to the students at the bedside. Soon after settling in London he became physician to the Dreadnought hospital ship at Greenwich, and subsequently consulting physician to the Seamen's Hospital. He was also physician to H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex. From 1 Sept. 1831 to 1839 he was a metropolitan commissioner in lunacy; he latterly devoted much of his attention to insane cases, and was one of the first to use opium freely in the treatment of mental diseases. In 1859 he published a letter, which he addressed to the Earl of Shaftesbury, ‘On the Laws which regulate Private Lunatic Asylums, with a comparative View of the process “de lunatico inquirendo” in England and the law of France.’ To it are added a few observations on the causes of insanity and on the improvement in the treatment of mental diseases during the preceding twenty-five years. On 17 June 1841 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society; he was also a fellow of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society, and a member of the Royal Medical and Wernerian Society of Edinburgh, and of the Imperial and Royal Academy of Science of Siena.

Seymour died at his residence, 13 Charles Street, Berkeley Square, on 16 April 1866, from organic disease of the stomach and liver. There is a slightly coloured lithograph of him, executed by Slater, about 1830, and a bust in wax, by Foley, which was to have been reproduced in marble. Both portrait and bust are in the possession of the Rev. Edward Seymour at Bratton Clovelly parsonage. On 4 Sept. 1817 he married Maria Searancke of Clapton, and by her had a family of six sons and four daughters. The eldest son, Lieutenant-colonel Charles Frederick Seymour, C.B., of the 84th regiment, was acting adjutant-general at the siege of Lucknow.

Seymour was an accomplished man outside the range of his professional practice. His works possess considerable literary merit. The chief are:

  1. ‘Diseases of the Ovaria’ (with a volume of plates), 1830.
  2. ‘Observations on the Medical Treatment of Insanity,’ 1832.
  3. ‘Nature and Treatment of Dropsy,’ 1837.
  4. ‘Thoughts on the Treatment of several severe Diseases of the Human Body,’ 1847.

He also published: ‘On Tumours in the Abdomen’ (‘Trans. Med. Chir. Soc.,’ vol. xiii.); ‘On some of the Diseases of the Stomach’ (‘Med. Gaz.,’ vol. i.); and a series of papers ‘On the specific Effect of Atmospheric Poison in the Production of Fever’ (‘Med. Gaz.,’ vols. iii.–iv.).

[Proceedings of Med. Chirurgical Soc. 1867, v. 251; Munk's Coll. of Phys.; Churchill's Directory; Lancet, 1866; Medical Times and Gazette, 1866; information supplied by his son, the Rev. Edward Seymour, rector of Bratton Clovelly, Devonshire.]

W. W. W.