Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Marcet, Alexander John Gaspard

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MARCET, ALEXANDER JOHN GASPARD, M.D. (1770–1822), physician, was born in 1770 at Geneva, and received his school education there. He went to the university of Edinburgh, where he became M.D. on 24 June 1797, writing a thesis on diabetes, printed at Edinburgh in the same year. On the title-page he uses only the first of his Christian names. The essay is for the most part a compilation, and contains no evidence of clinical experience, but is interesting as showing in several passages that the author had already an inclination for chemical experiments. He took a house in London, and was admitted a licentiate of the College of Physicians on 25 June 1799. Guy's Hospital did not then require any higher diploma, and he became one of its physicians on 18 April 1804. In 1805 he contributed an essay, 'A Chemical Account of the Brighton Chalybeate,' to a new edition of the 'Treatise on Mineral Waters' of his colleague, Dr. William Saunders [q. v.] This was also published in the same year as a separate octavo pamphlet of seventy-four pages. He describes a variety of experiments of the rudimentary chemistry of that period made with the water of a chalybeate spring called the Wick, and shows that, unlike the Tonbridge spa, it might be drunk warm without any precipitation of iron. He took charge of the temporary military hospital at Portsmouth in 1809 for some months, when it contained invalids from Walcheren. He married Jane Haldimand [see Marcet, Jane], lived in Russell Square, and, as he grew wealthier, grew less and less inclined for medical practice. He became lecturer on chemistry at Guy's Hospital, and published in 1817 'An Essay on the Chemical History and Medical Treatment of Calculous Disorders.' This contains much information and some good drawings. He complains that he was unable to give full statistics, as no great London hospital then kept any regular record of cases. He was probably the first to remark that the pain of a renal calculus is oftenest due to its passage down a ureter, and that it may grow in the kidney without the patient suffering acutely at all. He retired from the staff of Guy's Hospital 10 March 1819, and went to live in Geneva, where he was appointed honorary professor of chemistry. He visited England in 1821, and died, when preparing to return to Geneva, in Great Coram Street, London, 19 Oct. 1822. He had been elected F.R.S. in 1815, and published some chemical papers in the 'Philosophical Transactions.' His portrait was painted by Raeburn and was engraved by Meyer.

[Munk's Coll. of Phys.ii. 466; Works.]

N. M.