Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Manningham, Richard
MANNINGHAM, Sir RICHARD, M.D. (1690–1759), man-midwife, second son of Thomas Manningham [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Chichester, was born at Eversley, Hampshire, in 1690. He was intended, like his elder brother Thomas, for the church, and educated at Cambridge, where he graduated LL.B. in 1717. He afterwards took the degree of M.D. He took a house in Chancery Lane, London, and there lived till 1729, when he moved to the Hay market, thence in 1734 to Woodstock Street, and in the following year to Jermyn Street, where he resided for the rest of his life. On 10 March 1720 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and on 30 Sept. in the same year was admitted a licentiate of the College of Physicians. On 18 Feb. 1721 he was knighted by George I. He was the chief man-midwife of his day, and was sometimes engaged in the summer to attend ladies in the country (The Febricula, p. 3), though it is an anachronism in 'Tristram Shandy' (chap. xviii.) to represent him as so deeply engaged in practice in 1718 as to be unable to undertake Mrs. Shandy's case. In 1726 he published 'Exact Diary of what was observed during a close attendance upon Mary Toft the pretended Rabbit Breeder.' Mary Toft [q. v.] at Godalming declared that she had given birth to several rabbits, and fragments of these were produced. Manningham showed that these were pieces of adult and not of young rabbits, and that the woman was not parturient at all. The court took a deep interest in the rabbit-breeder. She afterwards confessed the fraud, but Manningham in his account fails to determine whether the imposture began as an hysterical attempt to attract notice or was a mere piece of sordid knavery throughout. Hogarth drew Mary Toft, all the town talked of the affair, and Manningham's name became more widely known. Manningham published in 1740 'Artis Obstetricariæ Compendium,' with a pretentious title of fifty-eight words. The parts of the subject are arranged in tabular forms, each tabulation being followed by a series of aphorisms. An English translation was published by the same publisher in 1744. In 1750 appeared his 'Treatise on the Symptoms, Nature, Causes, and Cure of the Febricula or Little Fever,' which reached a third edition in 1755. The term 'febricula' is still in use for any slight continued fever, and perhaps the only value of this treatise is, that it shows the danger of using a general term which tends to check exhaustive inquiry into the cause of any particular rise of temperature. Manningham shows no grasp of the importance of the subject, while the fact that the thermometer was not used in his day deprives his work of all precision. He describes under this one heading cases of diseases as widely separated as enteric fever, phlebitis, and a common cold. In 1756 he published in Latin 'Aphorismata Medica,' which is a revised and enlarged edition of his compendium, and in 1758 'A Discourse concerning the Plague and Pestilential Fevers,' which is an enlargement of 'The Plague no Contagious Disorder,' a pamphlet which he had issued anonymously in 1744. In 1739 he established a ward in the parochial infirmary of St. James's, Westminster, for parturient women, the first ward of the kind established in Great Britain. He lectured there on midwifery, and the whole fee for his course of instruction was twenty guineas (Abstract of Midwifery, p. 35). He died 11 May 1759 at Chelsea, and he was buried there (Gent. Mag. 1759, p. 146). Dr. Thomas Denman [q. v.] says he was 'successful in practice and very humane in the exercise of his art' (Midwifery, 3rd ed., 1801, p. xxxi).
Thomas Manningham, his second son, graduated M.D. at St. Andrews, 24 May 1765, and became a licentiate of the College of Physicians 25 June. He lived in his father's house in Jermyn Street, London, till 1780, when he went to Bath and died there 3 Feb. 1794.
[Munk's Coll. of Phys. ii. 75, 267; Manningham's Works; Thomson's Hist. of Royal Soc. 1812, p. xxxv; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, i. 210-11, 346, vi. 97.]