Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wilson, James Arthur

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WILSON, JAMES ARTHUR (1795–1882), physician, son of James Wilson, the surgeon and teacher of anatomy at the Hunterian school in Great Windmill Street, was born in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, in 1795. His mother was a daughter of John Clarke of Wellingborough, and sister to Sir Charles Mansfield Clarke [q. v.] He was admitted a king's scholar at Westminster school in 1808, and was elected to Christ Church, Oxford, on 9 May 1812. He graduated B.A. on 6 Dec. 1815, and obtained a first class in both classics and mathematics. On leaving Oxford temporarily, he entered his father's school in Great Windmill Street, and during the winter of 1817 he studied at Edinburgh. He proceeded M.A. at Oxford on 13 May 1818, M.B. on 6 May 1819, and M.D. on 17 May 1823. He was elected a Radcliffe travelling fellow in June 1821, and, having been nominated to a ‘faculty studentship,’ remained a student of Christ Church. In 1819 and 1820 he travelled through France and Switzerland to Italy as physician to George John Spencer, second earl Spencer, and his wife, and in the early part of 1822 he left England for the continent, in compliance with the requirements of his Radcliffe fellowship, and, with occasional intervals, was abroad for the five following years. He was admitted a candidate of the College of Physicians on 12 April 1824, a fellow on 28 March 1825, and was censor in 1828 and 1851. He delivered the materia medica lectures at the college in 1829, 1830, 1831, and 1832, the Lumleian lectures in 1847 and 1848 ‘on Pain,’ and the Harveian oration in 1850; the last-named was one of the most original and noteworthy in matter and style of any that have been delivered within the present century. He was elected physician to St. George's Hospital on 29 May 1829, and held the office until 1857, when he was appointed consulting physician. Wilson died at Holmwood, Surrey, on 29 Dec. 1882.

Wilson was author of: 1. ‘On Spasm, Languor, Palsy, and other Disorders termed Nervous of the Muscular System,’ London, 1843, 12mo. 2. ‘Oratio Harveiana in Ædibus Collegii Regalis Medicorum habita die Junii xxix., mdcccl.,’ London, 1850, 8vo. His contributions to periodical literature were valuable and important. Among them were papers on ‘erysipelas and rheumatic fevers,’ published in the ‘Lancet.’ Under the signature of ‘Maxilla’ he contributed to the ‘London Gazette’ of 1833 a series of characteristic and interesting letters addressed to his friend Vestibulus (Dr. George Hall of Brighton). These letters are memorable in the history of the College of Physicians, for they struck the keynote for its reform.

[Munk's Coll. of Phys.; Roll of Westminster School; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886; Cat. Brit. Mus. Libr.]

W. W. W.