Lonsdale, Henry (DNB00)

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LONSDALE, HENRY, M.D. (1816–1876), biographer, born at Carlisle in 1816, was son of Henry Lonsdale, a tradesman there. After attending a local school he was apprenticed in 1831 to Messrs. Anderson & Hodgson, at that time the leading medical practitioners in Carlisle. In 1834 he went to study medicine at Edinburgh, and after a very successful course was in his third year appointed assistant to Dr. Robert Knox (1791–1862) [q. v.], the anatomist, whose biographer he afterwards became, and also to Dr. John Reid, the physiologist. He studied during the summer of 1838 in Paris, and in passing through London became member of the Royal College of Surgeons and licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries. On his return to Edinburgh he graduated M.D., writing a good thesis, ‘An experimental Inquiry into the nature of Hydrocyanic Acid,’ which was printed in the ‘Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal’ for 1839. In the autumn of 1838 Lonsdale, who was suffering from overwork, took temporary charge of a country practice at Raughton Head, Cumberland, where he helped to found the Inglewood Agricultural Society, a monthly club, the first of its kind in the county. He also gave a course of popular lectures on science, and acquired the friendship of Susanna Blamire [q. v.], whose poems he subsequently collected. In 1840 Lonsdale returned to Edinburgh and became a partner with his former principal, Dr. Knox, giving a daily demonstration in anatomy in the class-room and managing the dissecting rooms.

In 1841 Lonsdale was admitted fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. At one of their monthly séances he read a paper ‘On the Terminal Loops of the Nerves in the Brain and Spinal Cord of Man.’ These loops, which he had discovered when examining an infant monstrosity, he exhibited under a powerful microscope. The history of the case was recorded in the ‘Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal’ for 1843, and attracted attention. He was soon afterwards appointed a senior president of the Royal Medical Society, to which he made a notable contribution on ‘Diphtheria,’ chiefly based upon observations of the disease at Raughton Head. Lonsdale was also for two sessions the senior president of the Hunterian Medical Society, and was at the same time senior president of the Anatomical and Physiological Society, which had been resuscitated by Dr. Knox and himself. In 1841 he was appointed physician to the Royal Public Dispensary, where for the first time in Edinburgh he introduced the use of cod-liver oil. During the epidemic of relapsing fever in Edinburgh in 1843, he had charge of the largest outdoor district, and when his three assistants broke down did the work single-handed.

In the session of 1844–5 Lonsdale's increasing liability to bronchitis induced him to relinquish his brilliant prospects in Edinburgh and to return to Carlisle, where he settled in the autumn of 1845. In 1846 he was appointed physician to the Cumberland Infirmary, an office which he held for twenty-two years. To the deficiency of vegetable food consequent on the potato blight of 1846, Lonsdale, after very thorough investigation, attributed an epidemic of scurvy, then prevailing in a district north of Carlisle; Dr. Robert Christison had assigned the complaint to a defective supply of milk. Each doctor stated his case in the ‘Edinburgh Medical Journal,’ but Christison finally accepted Lonsdale's theory.

When in the winter of 1847–8 cholera seemed to be threatening western Europe, Lonsdale set on foot a sanitary association in Carlisle, and contributed many articles to the ‘Journal of Public Health,’ a London periodical supported by the early sanitary reformers. His report on the health of Carlisle was quoted with commendation in the House of Commons by Lord Morpeth. A careful essay which he wrote on the health of bakers also attracted notice, and was reprinted in ‘Chambers's Journal.’

After his marriage in 1851 Lonsdale chiefly occupied himself in reading, travelling in southern and eastern Europe, interesting himself in Italian art and archæology, and collecting materials for the lives of eminent Cumberland men. He died on 23 July 1876, and was buried on the 27th in Stanwix churchyard. He married Eliza Indiana, only daughter of John Smith Bond of Rose Hill, near Carlisle, which subsequently became his own residence. He left three sons and three daughters.

Lonsdale, a man of genial and kindly temperament, was in politics a philosophical radical, and took especial interest in the cause of Italian unity. He helped to collect subscriptions for Garibaldi's expedition to Sicily in 1860, and was the friend of Mazzini and Kossuth, as well as of Garibaldi. Lonsdale's writings are: 1. ‘A biographical Sketch of William Blamire, formerly M.P. for Cumberland,’ 4to, London, 1862, afterwards reissued in vol. i. of the ‘Worthies of Cumberland.’ 2. ‘The Life and Works of Musgrave Lewthwaite Watson, sculptor, with Illustrations,’ 4to, London, 1866, an excellent biography. 3. ‘The Worthies of Cumberland,’ 6 vols. 8vo, London, 1867–75, a series of pleasantly written biographies. 4. ‘A Biographical Memoir’ prefixed to the ‘Anatomical Memoirs’ of his old friend Professor John Goodsir, 8vo, Edinburgh, 1868. 5. ‘A Sketch of the Life and Writings of Robert Knox, the Anatomist,’ 8vo, London, 1870, undertaken at the request of some old Edinburgh friends. Lonsdale also collected the ‘Poetical Works’ of Miss Susanna Blamire, which were published at Edinburgh under the editorship of Patrick Maxwell in 1842, and edited the ‘Life of Dr. John Heysham of Carlisle,’ 4to, London, 1870.

[Carlisle Journal, 28 July 1876, p. 5; Carlisle Express, 29 July 1876, p. 5; British Medical Journal, 5 Aug. 1876, p. 195; Ward's Men of the Reign, s.v.; London and Provincial Medical Directory, 1868, p. 445.]

G. G.