Fordyce, William (DNB00)

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FORDYCE, Sir WILLIAM (1724–1792), physician, son of Provost Fordyce of Aberdeen, and brother of David Fordyce [q. v.], was born at Aberdeen in 1724, and educated at Marischal College, also serving a medical pupilage with a local practitioner and with his brother John at Uppingham in 1743. It has been inferred that he qualified at Edinburgh, from the fact that he was admitted a member of the Royal Medical Society there, 22 Dec. 1744; but it is more probable that he left Edinburgh without qualifying, volunteering for the army during the war with France which ended in 1748, and obtaining an appointment as surgeon to the guards, with whom he served in three campaigns, enduring many hardships. Probably after the peace he travelled and studied in France. He was at Turin in 1750 (Fragmenta Chirurgica, p. 21), but returned to London in the same year. While retaining for many years his connection with the army, he entered upon general practice in London, and this and the growing note of his brothers introduced him to the best circles. In 1770 he was created M.D. at Cambridge by royal mandate, and was admitted licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians on 10 April 1786. He was knighted by George III in 1787. It is stated (Gent. Mag. lxii. 1218) that he was sent for to greater distances and received greater sums than almost any physician of his time, and accumulated much money. He aided his brother Alexander [q. v.] to his dazzling rise of fortune, and suffered great loss when he failed, generously taking upon himself the burden of his brother James's loss also. His generosity and hospitality were very great. His medical skill and knowledge were considerable for his time, as testified by his works, some of which went through numerous editions. The Society of Arts voted him a gold medal for his work on rhubarb. He died at Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, after a long illness, on 4 Dec. 1792, aged 68. At the time of his death he was lord rector of Marischal College, Aberdeen, to which he left 1,000l.

Fordyce's works (all published in London) are:

  1. 'A Review of the Venereal Disease and its Remedies,' 1767, fifth edition 1785; German translation, Altenburg, 1769.
  2. 'A New Inquiry into the Causes, Symptoms, and Cure of Putrid and Inflammatory Fevers, with an Appendix on the Hectic Fever and on the Ulcerated Sore Throat,' 1773, fourth edition 1777; German translation, Leipzig, 1774.
  3. 'The Great Importance and Proper Method of Cultivating and Curing Rhubarb in Britain for Medical Uses,' 1784.
  4. 'Fragmenta Chirurgica et Medica,' 1784.
  5. 'Letter to Sir John Sinclair on the Virtues of Muriatic Acid in curing Putrid Diseases,' 1790.

[Gent. Mag. lxii. 1217; Fordyce's Works; Chalmers's Biog. Dict.; Munk's Coll. of Phys. ii. 359-60.]

G. T. B.