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

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SIMS, JAMES (1741–1820), physician, son of a dissenting minister, was born in co. Down in 1741, and, after a good preliminary education, was sent to Leyden, where he proceeded M.D. in 1764, presenting as his inaugural thesis ‘De Temperie Fœminea et Morbis inde oriundis,’ Leyden, 4to. He then returned to Ireland, and, after practising for a time in Tyrone, he removed to London, where he was admitted a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians on 30 Sept. 1778. He was much helped by John Coakley Lettsom [q. v.], and soon acquired lucrative practice. He served as a physician to the General Dispensary in Aldersgate Street and to the Surrey Dispensary, and he was the first chairman and vice-president of the Philanthropic Society. The Humane Society, too, owed much of its early success to his energy. He served for twenty-two years as president of the Medical Society of London, and was displaced only by the strenuous exertions of the younger fellows. He had a valuable collection of books, which he made over to the Medical Society in 1802, in consideration of an annuity of 30l. a year to be paid to himself and his wife, and of 45l. annually to the survivor. He made a sufficient fortune to allow of his retiring to Bath in 1810. He died there in 1820.

Dr. Wadd says of him that ‘he was a good-humoured pleasant man, full of anecdote, an ample reservoir of good things, and for figures and facts a perfect chronicle of other times. He had a most retentive memory; but when that failed, he referred to a book of knowledge, from which he quoted with oracular authority.’

There is a good portrait of Sims painted by Samuel Medley (1769–1857) [q. v.] It was engraved by Nathan Branwhite [q. v.], and issued as a folding plate in the third volume of Dr. Lettsom's ‘Hints designed to promote Beneficence, Temperance, and Medical Science.’ The same volume contains a small silhouette of Dr. Sims. In Medley's picture of the Medical Society of London (at present in the society's rooms in Chandos Street, Cavendish Square), Dr. Sims is again pictured to the life, sitting in the presidential chair with a cocked hat upon his head. The picture was engraved by Branwhite.

Sims's works are: 1. ‘Observations on Epidemic Disorders, with Remarks on Nervous and Malignant Fevers,’ London, 8vo, 1773; 2nd edit. 1776; translated into German (Hamburg, 1775), and into French (Avignon, 12mo, 1778). 2. ‘A Discourse on the best methods of prosecuting Medical Enquiries,’ London, 8vo, 1774; 2nd edit. 1774; translated into French (Avignon, 12mo, 1778), and into Italian (Venice, 1786). 3. ‘Observations on the Scarlatina Anginosa, commonly called the Ulcerated Sore Throat,’ London, 8vo; 3rd edit. 1803; an American edition was published at Boston in 1796. Sims also completed and corrected Edward Foster's ‘Principles and Practice of Midwifery,’ 2 vols., London, 8vo, 1781.

[Munk's Coll. of Phys. ii. 318; Clarke's Autobiographical Recollections of the Medical Profession, p. 228; Gent. Mag. 1820, i. 567; Wadd's Nugæ Chirurgicæ, p. 258. Additional information from the Records of the Medical Society of London, kindly given by Mr. W. R. Hall the registrar.]

D’A. P.