Thomson, Anthony Todd (DNB00)

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THOMSON, ANTHONY TODD (1778–1849), physician, younger son of Alexander Thomson, was born in Edinburgh, where his parents were staying temporarily, on 7 Jan. 1778. His father was postmaster-general and a member of the council of the province of Georgia, and collector of customs for the town of Savannah. Anthony returned to America with his parents soon after Anthony Todd, postmaster of Edinburgh, had stood sponsor to him as his godson; but when peace was declared after the American war, his father, in common with many American loyalists, threw up his appointments, and settled in Edinburgh with a small pension from the government. Thomson was brought up by Mrs. Rennie, who afterwards became his stepmother. He was educated at the high school, and was nominated, by his godfather's interest, to a clerkship in the Edinburgh post office. He graduated doctor of medicine at the university of Edinburgh in 1799, and in November of the same year he became a member of the Royal Medical Society. He had previously been admitted a member of the Speculative Society, 27 Feb. 1798, and there formed a lifelong friendship with Lord Brougham, having already gained the affection of Henry (afterwards Lord) Cockburn.

He left Edinburgh in 1800, after the death of his father, and settled as a general practitioner in Sloane Street, London, where he eventually acquired a very large practice. He was admitted a member of the College of Surgeons of London in 1800. In March 1812 he was instrumental in founding the Chelsea, Brompton, and Belgrave Dispensary, which is still a useful institution, and to his exertions was due the establishment of an infant school in the parish of St. Luke's, Chelsea. In 1814 Thomson became, with George Man Burrows [q. v.] and William Royston, an editor of 'The Medical Repository,' to the pages of which he contributed many articles.

He left Chelsea in 1826, was admitted a member of the Royal College of Physicians, and took a house in Hinde Street, Manchester Square. In 1828 he was elected the first professor of materia medica and therapeutics at the newly founded London University (now University College), and in 1832, on the death of John Gordon Smith [q. v.], he was appointed with Andrew Amos [q. v.] joint professor of medical jurisprudence. In 1837 Amos was appointed a member of the governor-general's council in India, and Thomson became the sole professor, and so continued until his death. He was also a physician to the dispensary attached to University College, which has since become the University College and North London Hospital. He was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1842, and he was then living in Welbeck Street. His health broke down from continued mental exertion in 1835, and he was compelled during the remainder of his life to relax his earlier labours, though he continued to practise, and devoted much attention to the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the skin.

He died at Ealing on 3 July 1849, and is buried in Perivale churchyard. His fine collection of specimens of materia medica, with many illustrative drawings, was purchased by the government after Thomson's death for the use of Queen's College, Cork. He was twice married: first, in 1801, to Christina Maxwell, by whom he had issue one son and two daughters; and, she dying in 1820, he married, in the same year, Katharine, daughter of Thomas Byerley [see Thomson, Katharine]. He had three sons, including Henry William (Byerley) Thomson [q. v.] and five daughters by his second marriage.

Thomson's lectures on botany at the Pharmaceutical Society and in the gardens of the Royal Botanical Society did much to extend the teaching of this subject to medical students. He was a firm believer in the efficacy of drugs in the treatment of disease, and he was a plain but agreeable lecturer. He carried on some original research in connection with the composition and properties of the alkaloids and iodides, the value of which was duly recognised by his admission to several learned societies both here and abroad, while his liberal cast of mind enabled him to take an active part in obtaining the apothecaries' act of 1815. He was one of the earliest supporters of the Medico-Chirurgical Society, and he assisted in founding the Pathological Society of London.

His works are: 1. ‘The Conspectus Pharmacopœiæ,’ 8vo, London, 1810. This work was a commentary upon the Pharmacopœiæ of the London, Dublin, and Edinburgh Colleges of Physicians, to which in the later editions published in America the United States Pharmacopœia was added. The fifteenth edition was issued by Messrs. Longman in 1845, and it was adapted to the ‘British Pharmacopœia’ of 1885 by Professor Nestor Tirard, M.D., in 1887. The seventh American edition was issued at New York by Messrs. S. S. & W. Wood, 12mo, 1862. It was translated into German (Leipzig, 1827), and the appendix on poisons was again translated, and was published at Aachen in 1846. 2. ‘The London Dispensatory: a Practical Synopsis of Materia Medica, Pharmacy, and Therapeutics,’ 8vo, London, 1811. The eleventh edition was issued in 1852. It was translated into French (Paris, 1827). The work is one of great erudition, containing an immense amount of information admirably put together in an easy and lucid manner. It is illustrated by a great number of original experiments and observations. It was written in the intervals of a large practice. 3. ‘Lectures on the Elements of Botany,’ vol. i., with plates, 8vo, London, 1822. The lectures were delivered in ‘Tait's Gardens,’ Chelsea, and afterwards in the room formerly occupied by Joshua Brookes [q. v.] in Blenheim Street, Oxford Street. The work sold badly, so the first volume was alone published. 4. ‘Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics,’ 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1832; 3rd edit. 1843. 5. ‘Medical Statement of the case of the Princess Charlotte of Wales,’ 8vo, London, 1817. He edited: 1. ‘The London Medical Repository,’ vols. i–viii. 1814–17. 2. Bateman's ‘Practical Synopsis of Cutaneous Diseases,’ 7th edit. 8vo, 1829. 3. ‘The Seasons,’ by James Thomson, with notes philosophical, classical, historical, and biographical, London, 1847, 16mo. He translated ‘The Philosophy of Magic, Prodigies, and Apparent Miracles,’ by A. J. Eusèbe Baconnière Salverte, London, 1846, 8vo, 2 vols., a work dealing with the same subject as Sir David Brewster's ‘Letters on Natural Magic.’

[Lancet, 1849, ii. 46; a Memoir of Anthony Todd Thomson, privately printed in 1850; information from Colonel W. Johnston, C.B.]

D’A. P.