Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Taylor, Michael Waistell

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TAYLOR, MICHAEL WAISTELL (1824–1892), antiquary and physician, son of Michael Taylor, an Edinburgh merchant, was born at Portobello in Midlothian on 29 Jan. 1824. He was educated at Portsmouth and matriculated at Edinburgh University in 1840, graduating M.D. in 1843. In the following year he obtained a diploma from the Edinburgh College of Physicians and Surgeons. While at Edinburgh University he made a special study of botany, and was appointed assistant to Professor John Hutton Balfour [q. v.] He was also one of the founders and early presidents of the Hunterian Medical Society. In 1844 he studied surgery at Paris for nine months, and afterwards visited various foreign cities collecting botanical specimens. In 1845 he settled in Penrith in Cumberland, and soon after succeeded to the practice of Dr. John Taylor. In 1858 he achieved distinction by ascertaining that scarlet fever might be caused by contamination of the milk supply—a discovery which has been acknowledged by medical men to be of great service in preventing infection. In 1868 he had a large share in founding the border counties branch of the British Medical Association, and was the second to hold the office of president. He was the author of many treatises on medical subjects, and in 1881 wrote an important article on the fungoid nature of diphtheria.

Taylor was no less known as an antiquary than as a physician. He was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London on 27 May 1886, and was a fellow of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries, a member of the Epidemiological Society, and a member of the council of the Royal Archæological Institute. He joined the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archæological Society soon after its formation in 1866. He made several important local discoveries, particularly of the vestiges of Celtic occupation on Ullswater, the starfish cairns of Moor Divock, the prehistoric remains at Clifton, and the Croglin moulds for casting spear-heads in bronze. At the time of his death he had completed a very elaborate work on the ‘Old Manorial Halls of Cumberland and Westmorland’ (London, 1892, 8vo). He retired from medical practice in 1884, and, dying in London on 24 Nov. 1892, was buried at Penrith in the Christ Church burial-ground. He married in 1858 Mary, a daughter of J. H. Rayner of Liverpool, and left three sons and three daughters.

[Memoir prefixed to Old Manorial Halls, 1892 (with portrait); Times, 2 Dec. 1892; Carlisle Journal, 29 Nov. 1892; List of Edinburgh Medical Graduates, p. 135.]

E. I. C.