Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tyson, Edward

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TYSON, EDWARD, M.D. (1650–1708), physician, son of Edward Tyson, was born at Clevedon, Somerset, in 1650. His family was of Cumberland originally. He was matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, 10 May 1667, graduated B.A. 8 Feb. 1670, M.A. 4 Nov. 1673. He took the degree of M.D. at Cambridge, where he became a member of Benet College. He settled in London, was a candidate at the College of Physicians on 30 Sept. 1680, was elected a fellow on 2 April 1683, and a censor in 1694. He became physician to Bridewell and Bethlehem Hospitals, and lectured on anatomy to the Barber-Surgeons for some years till 1699, when he resigned. The manuscript syllabus of his lectures, with numerous little animals drawn on the margin, is preserved in the Sloane collection in the British Museum. His medical writings are all in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ or in the ‘Acta Medica’ of Bartholinus, and are all valuable records of cases, such as an abnormal liver (No. 142), remarks on an extraordinary birth (No. 150), abscess of the brain and brain of an idiot (No. 228), hydatids in the bladder (No. 287), and four pulmonary cases. William Harvey [q. v.], Edward Browne [q. v.], and other physicians had made numerous dissections of animals, but Tyson was the first in England who published several elaborate monographs of particular animals. His ‘Phocæna, or the Anatomy of a Porpess,’ published in 1680, is a fuller and more exact account of that animal than any before. He describes the skeleton and viscera, but does not say much on the muscles. In 1683 he published the ‘Anatomy of the Rattlesnake,’ which first appeared in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ (No. 144). In the same publication he gave dissections of lumbricus latus—the tapeworm (No. 146), and lumbricus teres, now known as ascaris lumbricoides (No. 147); and of lumbricus hydropicus (No. 193) or hydatid, which he successfully shows to be an animal and not a mere morbid growth; and of the Tajacu, or Mexico musk-hog. He published the first thorough dissection of the female Virginian opossum, which he calls ‘Carigueya seu Marsupiale Americanum,’ in 1698; and in 1699 ‘Orang Outang, sive Homo Sylvestris, or the Anatomy of a Pygmy.’ The ape was a chimpanzee from Africa, and not a true orang-outang. A second edition appeared in 1751. The dissection is carefully and clearly described, and is followed by an essay of much learning on the pigmies of the ancients, which, with their cynocephali, satyrs, and sphinges, he believes to have been apes. The book has excellent plates, and is dedicated to the Lord-chancellor John Somers [q. v.] He translated in 1681 Swammerdam's admirable ‘Ephemeri Vita,’ and in the preface urges naturalists to study the British ephemeridæ. In Willughby's ‘Historia Piscium,’ 1686, he wrote the anatomy of an embryo shark and of the lumpus Anglorum; and in Plot's ‘Natural History of Oxfordshire’ (p. 305) he wrote on the scent-bags of polecats. In ‘Phocæna’ he makes some excellent suggestions for a general English natural history. His general learning was considerable, and he published in 1669 ‘A Philosophical Essay concerning the Rhymes of the Ancients.’ He was not a ‘signetur man,’ but took the part of the apothecaries in the dispensary controversy; and Sir Samuel Garth [q. v.], who calls him ‘Carus,’ has satirised his deliberate way of speaking and his taste for Swiss philosophy, Danish poetry, and every kind of old books,

    Refuse of fairs and gleanings of Duck Lane.

Tyson died on 1 Aug. 1708, and was buried in St. Dionis Backchurch, and since the demolition in recent years of that church his monument has been moved to All Hallows, Lombard Street. Elkanah Settle published a funeral poem, ‘Threnodium Apollinare,’ in his memory, of ten pages of heroic verse. The Barber-Surgeons had his portrait painted, and it hung in their parlour (Young, Annals of the Barber-Surgeons) till 1746, when they sold it for ten guineas to his relative, Luke Maurice. It is probably the portrait now in the College of Physicians, given in 1764 by his great-nephew, Dr. Richard Tyson (1730–1784) [q. v.]

[Works; Munk's Coll. of Phys. i. 426; Foster's Alumni Oxon.]

N. M.