Rutty, John (DNB00)

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RUTTY, JOHN, M.D. (1698–1775), physician, was born in Wiltshire, of quaker parents, on 25 Dec. 1698, and after medical education at Leyden, where he graduated M.D. in 1723, reading a thesis ‘De Diarrhœa,’ settled in Dublin as a physician in 1724, and there practised throughout his life. He had been brought up a member of the Society of Friends, and was zealously attached to its tenets and discipline. He was a constant student of medicine and the allied sciences, as well as of spiritual books, such as those of Thomas à Kempis, Law, the Port Royalists, and Watts. He lived sparely, sometimes dined on nettles, practised various forms of abstinence, drank very little alcohol, and often gave his services to the poor. In 1737 he began, he says, to form a just conception of the nature of this life, and saw it as a scene of sorrows, infirmities, and sins. In 1753 he began on 13 Sept. to keep ‘a spiritual diary and soliloquies,’ and continued it till December 1774, leaving directions in his will for its publication. The chief ill-doings of which he accuses himself are too great a love for the studies of the materia medica and meteorology, irritability, and excessive enjoyment of food. Though he deplores these excesses in language which seems disproportioned, and which justly excited Dr. Johnson's laugh (Boswell's Johnson, ii. 155), it is clear that he was sincere and that his life was blameless. He avoided every kind of excess except that of verbal expression, as when he speaks, in 1768, of the ‘dismal wounding news from England, even the vain profusion of expense in diamonds on occasion of the visit of the king of Denmark.’ His first medical book was ‘An Account of Experiments on Joanna Stephen's Medicine for the Stone,’ published in London in 1742. He published in Dublin in 1751 ‘A History of the Rise and Progress of the People called Quakers in Ireland, from 1653 to 1751,’ a continuation of a book originally written by Thomas Wight of Cork in 1700; a fourth edition was issued in 1811. In 1757 he published in London ‘A Methodical Synopsis of Mineral Waters,’ a quarto of 658 pages, which gives an account of the chief mineral springs of the British Isles and of Europe. He had thrown doubt on some statements of Charles Lucas (1713–1771) [q. v.] in his account of the spa of Lisdoonvarna, co. Clare, and Lucas issued a general attack on the book, of which Rutty remarks in his diary ‘a wholesome discipline, though severe.’ He published in Dublin, in 1762, a tract called ‘The Analysis of Milk,’ and in 1770 ‘The Weather and Seasons in Dublin for Forty Years,’ which mentions the prevalent diseases throughout that period. He was always fond of natural history, and in 1772 published ‘A Natural History of the County of Dublin’ in two volumes. His last work was published in quarto at Rotterdam in 1775. It was a Latin treatise on drugs, containing much learning, entitled ‘Materia Medica Antiqua et Nova,’ and is still useful for reference. It had occupied him for forty years. On 6 April 1775 John Wesley (Journal, iv. 40) records that he ‘visited that venerable man Dr. Rutty.’ Rutty then lived in rooms, for which he paid an annual rent of 10l., at the eastern corner of Boot Lane and Mary's Lane in Dublin. He died on 27 April 1775, and was buried in a Quaker burial-ground which occupied the site of the present College of Surgeons in Stephen's Green, Dublin.

[Rutty's Spiritual Diary, 2 vols. 1776, 2nd edit. 1796, 1 vol.; Hibernian Mag. 1775, p. 320; Leadbeater's Biographical Notices of Members of the Society of Friends, London, 1828; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography, Dublin, 1878; Lucas's Analysis of Dr. Rutty's Methodical Synopsis of Mineral Waters, London, 1757; Smith's Catalogue of Friends' Books; Gent. Mag. 1808, ii. 110; Works; Peacock's Index of Leyden Students; Boswell's Life of Johnson, edit. 1791.]

N. M.