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THE celebrated physician, Thomas Sydenham, in many respects the most eminent that England has produced, was born in the year 1624, at Wynford-Eagle, in Dorsetshire, where his father, William Sydenham, enjoyed a considerable estate. The mansion in which he was born is now converted into a farm-house, and stands on the property of Lord Wynford.

In the year 1642, when eighteen, he was admitted as a commoner at Magdalen-Hall, Oxford; but quitted it in the same year, when that city became the headquarters of the royal army, after the battle of Edgehill. He was probably induced to take this step by reasons of a political nature; for we find that his family were active adherents of the opposite party. Indeed he is said, though on doubtful authority, to have held a commission himself under the parliament during his absence from Oxford; and his elder brother, William, is known to



have attained considerable rank in the republican army, and held important commands under the protectorate.

The political bias of his family is not without interest, as affording a probable explanation of some circumstances in his life which would otherwise be rather unaccountable-such as the fact that though he reached the first eminence as a practising physician, he was never employed at court, and was slighted by the college, who invested him with none of their honours, nor even advanced him to the fellowship, though a licentiate of their body, and qualified by the requisite university education.

When Oxford was surrendered to the parliament, in 1646, Sydenham determined to resume his academical studies; and passing through London on his way, he met accidentally with Dr. Thomas Coxe, a physician of some repute at that time, who was attending his brother. The choice of a profession became the subject of a conversation between them, which determined him in favour of medicine; for, in a letter addressed to Dr. Mapletoft, thirty years after this time, which forms the preface to one of his writings, he refers with much warmth to this conversation as the origin of his professional zeal, and, consequently, of whatever useful advances he had made in medicine. Thus his success, both in the practice and reformation of his art, may show the advantage of waiting till the faculties are fully matured, before they are exercised in a study which requires independence as well as vigour in thinking: for the circumstances of his family being sufficiently affluent to place him above the necessity of choosing a profession early, he had not turned his attention to physic till of an age at which the medical education is generally almost completed. We are not, however, to believe in the justice of an accusation brought against him, that he had never studied his profession till he began to practise it; for though we do not know what particular line of study he pursued on his return to Oxford, it is clear from many passages in his works that he had studied the writings of the ancient physicians with no common care; and as his own show

no defect of acquaintance with whatever real information had been collected before his time, we may reasonably conclude that this contemporary censure was mistaken or malicious. He certainly held the opinions of his modern predecessors in very little respect, for he does not often mention them, even for the purpose of confutation; and in the letter to Dr. Mapletoft already referred to he says that he had found the best, and, in fact, the only safe guide, through the various perplexities he had met with in his practice, to be the method of actual observation and experiment recommended by Lord Bacon. This sentiment is often repeated in his works; but it surely does not countenance the idea that he had begun to practise without endeavouring to make what preparation he could, or would have had others follow such an example; for the charge against him goes to this length. The notion might arise from a foolish anecdote related by his admirer, Sir Richard Blackmore, of his having recommended Don Quixote as the best introduction he knew to the practice of medicine, which Sydenham must have intended as a jest, or perhaps as a sarcasm on the narrator himself.

At Oxford he formed a close friendship with John Locke, better known afterwards as a philosopher than as a physician. Their intimacy, which lasted to the end of Sydenham's life, probably contributed not a little to give form to the disgust which he soon displayed at the unsatisfactory and fluctuating state of medical opinion, and to the zeal with which he sought to establish it on surer grounds; for he appeals, as to the highest authority, in confirmation of some of his new views on the treatment of fever, to the approval of his illustrious friend, who even paid him the compliment of prefixing a eulogy in indifferent Latin verse to the treatise in which these views are developed.

On the 14th of April, 1648, he took the degree of bachelor of medicine, being then twenty-four years old; and in the same year obtained a fellowship at All Souls College, by the interest of a relation. The degree of doctor he subsequently took at Cambridge, where, being

among those who thought with him in politics, he probably found himself more at his ease. After a visit of some length to Montpellier, then considered the best practical school of medicine on the Continent, he settled in Westminster, and soon after married.

His progress to eminence in his profession must have been unusually rapid, which might be owing, in some measure, to the call for men of good capacity to the more stirring scenes of civil strife; for at thirty-six he had succeeded in establishing a first-rate reputation, which he continued to sustain in spite of much hostility and illhealth for upwards of twenty years.

He witnessed the breaking out of the plague in 1665, but when it reached the house adjoining his own, he was induced to remove with his family some miles out of town. Of this desertion of his post, however, he seems to have repented; for he afterwards returned, and occupied himself diligently in visiting the victims of that devastating malady, and has left a short but interesting account of his opinions respecting it, and of the treatment he adopted; for the comparative success of which, he appeals to the physicians who had witnessed or followed his practice.

At the age of twenty-five, though a man of remarkably temperate and regular habits, he became afflicted with gout and stone, from which he suffered extreme torment with great resignation and patience for the rest of his life. Of course, he did not neglect the opportunity of studying those diseases in his own person, and recording the result of his observations. His account of gout, especially, is considered to be a most accurate and able history of that disease.

He died, leaving a family, at his house in Pall-Mall, on the 29th of December, 1689, in the sixty-sixth year of his age, and was buried in the parish church of St. James, Westminster, where, in 1810, a tablet was erected to his memory by the College of Physicians, who became, as a body, tardily but fully convinced of his extraordinary merit and eminent claims to the gratitude and respect of his profession.

He is said to have been a man of the most retiring and unobtrusive disposition, and the utmost placidity of temper. In a biographical sketch by Dr. Samuel Johnson, prefixed to an English edition of his works by Swan, in 1742, it is remarked, that if he could not teach us in his writings how to cure the painful disorders from which he suffered, he has taught us by his example the nobler art to bear them with serenity. Nor was he less patient of mental than of bodily inflictions; for though he was the object of much asperity among the physicians of his time, he made no reprisals upon the reputations of those who slandered him: though he often speaks of their bitterness, he never even mentions their names-a forbearance to which, as his biographer pungently remarks, they are indebted for their escape from a discreditable immortality. His writings breathe throughout a spirit of warm piety, candour, and benevolence: he is said to have been extremely generous in his dealings with his patients; for which, with other reasons, his practice though large was not very gainful, and he did not leave much wealth behind him. He never was sought after by the great, like his successor and disciple Radcliffe; and had none of the talents by which that singular man was able to push his fortune and establish a kind of professional despotism. Yet whatever medical skill the latter evinced seems to have been derived from Sydenham, whose doctrines and treatment he contrived to bring into a much more early and general repute in England than they would probably have otherwise obtained. Each had his reward: the one will be long remembered as the founder of a magnificent library; the other can never be forgotten as the author of modern medicine.

The bent of Sydenham's mind was eminently practical; he thought that the business of a physician is to acquire an accurate knowledge of the causes and symptoms of diseases, and the effects of different remedies upon them; that, if he cannot prevent them, he may at least recognise them with certainty, and apply with promptitude the means most likely to cure them: with Hippocrates and the ancient empirical physicians, whose

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