Paris, John Ayrton (DNB00)

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PARIS, JOHN AYRTON, M.D. (1785–1856), physician, son of Thomas Paris and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Edward Ayrton, doctor of music, of Trinity College, Cambridge, was born at Cambridge 7 Aug. 1785. He was educated first under Mr. Barker of Trinity Hall, then at Linton grammar school, and afterwards under the private tuition of Dr. Thomas Bradley, physician to the Westminster Hospital in London, and on 30 June 1803 entered at Caius College, Cambridge. In October 1803 he obtained a scholarship, which he held till 1808. His means were small, and on 3 Jan. 1804 he was appointed to one of the studentships in physic founded for poor students by Squire Tancred. He attended Professor Edward Daniel Clarke's lectures on mineralogy, and showed much taste for natural philosophy. He afterwards studied medicine at Edinburgh, and graduated M.B. at Cambridge in 1808. He was created M.D. 6 July 1813. He began practice in London, where he was befriended by Dr. William George Maton [q. v.], who obtained his election as his successor on the medical staff of the Westminster Hospital. Paris resigned the office in 1813, and, on the recommendation of Dr. Maton, accepted an invitation to practise at Penzance. He became the first secretary of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, and contributed many papers to its ‘Transactions,’ of which the most important was on the safety-bar, an instrument devised by him to prevent the premature explosion of gunpowder in blasting. He wrote ‘A Guide to Mount's Bay and the Land's End’ in 1815, and in 1817 a ‘Memoir of the Life and Scientific Labours of the Rev. William Gregor,’ a Cornish mineralogist. He returned to London in 1817, and, after practising for a year in Sackville Street, finally took a house in Dover Street. He gave lectures on materia medica in Windmill Street, then famous for its medical school. He had been elected a fellow of the College of Physicians 30 Sept. 1814, and from 1819 to 1826 lectured there on materia medica. He attained considerable practice as a physician, and was famous for his resource in treatment and skill in prescribing. In making out what was the matter, he trusted much to the patient's general appearance, asked only a few questions, and made no very minute physical examination. His prescriptions were remarkable for their efficiency, and for the minute care with which they were drawn up. He did not rise very early, and only saw a moderate number of patients in a day. He was elected a censor at the College of Physicians in 1817, 1828, 1836, and 1843, and was Harveian orator in 1843. He succeeded Sir Henry Halford as president of the College of Physicians in 1844, and held office for twelve years. The intervals of his practice were occupied in writing books, many of which passed through several editions. His ‘Pharmacologia’ published in 1812, and revised by him up to the ninth edition in 1843, was a general treatise on materia medica and therapeutics. It was long the standard book on its subject, and he made five thousand guineas by its sale. He published in 1823 a book on ‘Medical Jurisprudence,’ which still continues to be the only English work on the subject with any pretensions to literary value. ‘The Elements of Medical Chemistry’ was published by him in 1825, and in 1827 a ‘Treatise on Diet,’ of which five editions appeared in ten years. He also wrote the article on dietetics in the ‘Cyclopædia of Practical Medicine.’ He published ‘The Life of Sir Humphry Davy’ in 1831, for which he received a thousand guineas, and short memoirs of Dr. W. G. Maton and of Arthur Young, the writer on agriculture. During his last illness he corrected the proofs of an eighth edition of his popular treatise on physical science, ‘Philosophy in Sport made Science in Earnest,’ of which the first edition appeared in 1827, with sketches by George Cruikshank [q. v.] He died at his house, 27 Dover Street, 4 Dec. 1856, of malignant disease of the bladder, and was buried at Woking cemetery beside his wife Mary Catherine, daughter of Francis Noble of Fordham Abbey, Cambridge, whom he married 11 Dec. 1809, and who died 24 June 1855. He left one son, Thomas Clifton Paris (b. 1818), who edited Murray's ‘Guide to Devon and Cornwall,’ 1850, and was district registrar of the court of probate, Hereford, from 1872.

Dr. Munk, who was intimate with Paris, describes him as a man of delightful conversation, of strong power of mind, and of a rare tenacity of memory. He writes fully without being unduly prolix, and his meaning is easily ascertained, though he has no peculiar felicity of expression. His portrait, by Skottowe, has been engraved by Bellin, and hangs in the dining-room of the College of Physicians of London. His bust, by Jackson, is at Falmouth, in the hall of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society.

[Munk's Memoir of Paris, 1857; Munk's Coll. of Phys. vol. iii.; information from Dr. Munk;}} extract from the Register of Caius College kindly made by Mr. J. Venn; Boase and Courtney's Bibliotheca Cornubiensis (where a full bibliography is given); Gent. Mag. 1818 ii. 78, 1848 i. 149.]

N. M.