Thomas Beddoes

Thomas Beddoes (April 13, 1760 - December 24, 1808), English physician and scientific writer, was born at Shiffnall in Shropshire. He was a reforming practitioner and teacher of medicine, and an associate of leading scientific figures.

He was a friend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and, according to E. S. Shaffer an important influence on Coleridge's early thinking, introducing him to the higher criticism ["Kubla Khan and The Fall of Jerusalem" (1975), particularly p.28.] . The poet Thomas Lovell Beddoes was his son.


Educated at Bridgnorth grammar school and at Pembroke College, Oxford, he also enrolled in the University of Edinburgh's medical course during the early 1780s. There he was taught chemistry by Joseph Black and natural history by John Walker. Additionally, he studied medicine in London under John Sheldon (1752-1808). In 1784 he published a translation of Lazzaro Spallanzani's "Dissertations on Natural History", and in 1785 produced a translation, with original notes, of Torbern Olof Bergman's "Essays on Elective Attractions".

He took his degree of doctor of medicine at Oxford in 1786, and, after visiting Paris, where he became acquainted with Lavoisier, was appointed reader in chemistry at Oxford University in 1788. His lectures attracted large and appreciative audiences; but his sympathy with the French Revolution exciting a clamour against him, he resigned his readership in 1792. In the following year he published the "History of Isaac Jenkins", a story which powerfully exhibits the evils of drunkenness, and of which 40,000 copies are reported to have been sold.

About the same time he began to work at his project for the establishment of a Pneumatic Institution for treating disease by the inhalation of different gases. In this he was assisted by Richard Lovell Edgeworth, whose daughter, Anna, became his wife in 1794. In 1799 the institution was established at Dowry Square, Hotwells, Bristol, its first superintendent being Humphry Davy, [cite journal |last=Levere |first=Trevor H |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1977 |month=July |title=Dr Thomas Beddoes and the Establishment of His Pneumatic Institution: A Tale of Three Presidents |journal=Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London |volume=32 |issue=1 |pages=41–49 |id= |url= |accessdate= |quote= |doi=10.1098/rsnr.1977.0005 ] who investigated the properties of nitrous oxide in its laboratory. The original aim of the institution was gradually abandoned; it became an ordinary sick-hospital, and was relinquished by its projector in the year before his death.

Beddoes was a man of great powers and wide acquirements, which he directed to noble and philanthropic purposes. He strove to effect social good by popularizing medical knowledge, a work for which his vivid imagination and glowing eloquence eminently fitted him.


Besides the writings mentioned above, he was the author of:

*"Chemical Essays" by Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1786) translator
*"An Account of some Appearances attending the Conversion of cast into malleable Iron. In a Letter from Thomas Beddoes, M. D. to Sir Joseph Banks, Bart. P.R.S." (Phil. Trans. Royal Society, 1791)
*"Observations on the nature of demonstrative evidence, with an explanation of certain difficulties occurring in the elements of geometry, and reflections on language" (1793)
*"Political Pamphlets" (1795-1797)
*a popular "Essay on Consumption" (1799), which won the admiration of Kant
*an "Essay on Fever" (1807)
*"Hygeia, or Essays Moral and Medical" (1807)

He also edited John Brown's "Elements of Medicine" (1795), and "Contributions to Physical and Medical Knowledge, principally from the West of England" (1799).


A life of Beddoes by John Edmonds Stock was published in 1810.

*Eric Robinson, 'Thomas Beddoes, M.D., and the reform of science teaching in Oxford', "Annals of Science", Volume 11, Number 2, June 1955, pp. 137-141
*Jacques Barzun (1972), 'Thomas Beddoes M.D.', essay reprinted in "A Jacques Barzun Reader" (2002)
*Trevor H. Levere, 'Dr. Thomas Beddoes at Oxford: Radical politics in 1788-1793 and the fate of the Regius Chair in Chemistry', "Ambix", 28 (1981), pp. 61-69
*Dorothy A. Stansfield (1984), "Thomas Beddoes, M.D., 1760-1808: Chemist, Physician, Democrat"
*Roy Porter (1992), "Doctor of Society: Thomas Beddoes and the Sick Trade in Late Enlightenment England"


External links

* [ Linked page includes portrait.]


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  • Thomas Forbes Kelsall — (1799 September 1872), was an English lawyer and literary figure. For some time he lived at 3 Houndwell Lane, Southampton.He married Frances Anne Harrison on 21 April 1829.T. F. Kelsall was the literary executor and friend of Thomas Lovell… …   Wikipedia

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