Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Webb, Francis Cornelius

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WEBB, FRANCIS CORNELIUS (1826–1873), physician and medical writer, born in Hoxton Square on 9 April 1826, was the eldest son of William Webb, a cadet of the family of Webb of Odstock Manor, by his second wife, Elizabeth Priscilla, daughter of Thomas Massett. He was educated at King's College school, London, and at the Devonport grammar school, where he became a sound classical scholar. On 25 Sept. 1841 he was apprenticed to James Sheppard, a surgeon at Stonehouse, and in 1843 he joined the medical school of University College. He was awarded five gold and silver medals for proficiency in different classes. In 1847 he became a member of the College of Surgeons, and in 1849 he proceeded to Edinburgh, and there graduated M.D. in 1850. In 1851 he returned to London. In 1859 he was appointed a member of the Royal College of Physicians, and he was elected a fellow on 31 July 1873. In 1857 he was nominated to the chair of medical jurisprudence in the Grosvenor Place school of medicine, and subsequently he was lecturer on natural history at the Metropolitan School of Dental Science. In 1861 at the Grosvenor Place school Webb delivered the introductory lecture on ‘The Study of Medicine: its Dignity and Rewards,’ which was published by request. His first important literary effort was an article on ‘The Sweating Sickness in England,’ published in the ‘Sanitary Review and Journal of Public Health’ for July 1857, afterwards republished separately. This was followed by ‘An Historical Account of Gaol Fever,’ read before the Epidemiological Society on 6 July 1857, and printed in the ‘Transactions’ of the society. In 1858 an essay on ‘Metropolitan Hygiene of the Past’ was written by Webb for the ‘Sanitary Review;’ it was published in the January number and reprinted separately in the same year. It is a brief and a masterly survey of the sanitary condition of London from the time of the Norman conquest until our own era. When in the ‘Dental Review’ the great work of John Hunter on the teeth was published, Webb contributed notes to the text embodying results of modern research on the subject, and designed to bring Hunter's work up to the point of knowledge of the present day. ‘Hunter's Natural History of the Human Teeth,’ with notes by Webb and R. T. Hulme, appeared in 1865. A few years later Webb became one of the editors of the ‘Medical Times and Gazette,’ and for the last years of his life he was editor-in-chief.

He was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries on 22 May 1856, of the Linnean Society on 21 Jan. 1858, and of other learned bodies. He was an accomplished musician.

He died on 24 Dec. 1873, and was buried at Highgate cemetery. On 10 Feb. 1852 he married Sarah Schröder, daughter of Joseph Croucher of Great James's Street, Buckingham Gate, and by her had twelve children, ten of whom survived him. A bust, exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1874, is in the possession of his widow, and an oil painting, done shortly before his death, is now at Odstock, Netley Abbey, Hampshire; both works were executed by Charles Bell Birch.

Besides the above-mentioned papers, Webb published ‘Biographies of Sir Benjamin Brodie, Bart., and of P. C. Price, Surgeon to King's College Hospital,’ London, 1865.

[Medical Times and Gazette, 1873–4; Times, December 1873 and January 1874; family papers; Records of the Society of Antiquaries; Records of Royal College of Physicians; Cat. Brit. Mus. Library.]

W. W. W.