Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Alcock, Nathan

ALCOCK, NATHAN (1707–1779), physician, was born at Runcorn, Cheshire, September 1707. He was the second son of David and Mary Alcock, and was of the kin of the founder of Jesus College, Cambridge, Bishop Alcock. A dislike to his schoolmaster seems to have interrupted his classical education, and for a time he was idle and unsettled. He then formed a resolution to study, and promised, if his father would give him a small estate of 50l. a year, which he owned at Wirrel in Cheshire, to ask nothing further and to take to medicine. His father gave him the estate, and Alcock studied first at Edinhurgh and then under Boerhaave at Leyden, where he not only learned his profession but how to teach it, and graduated M.D. 1737. From Leyden he came to Oxford, where one professor of the medical faculty gave no lectures, and another did not reside. Alcock gave lectures on anatomy and on chemistry, and this roused a storm of opposition against him. Public readers were appointed to supply the defect of the professors and to suppress the Leyden doctor. The readers were unable to compete with a man fresh from the class rooms of Albinus and Gobius, and master of the lucid method of exposition which was the ground of the fame of Boerhaave; and while Alcock's unauthorised lectures were crowded, no one went to hear his opponents. Other methods of opposition were tried; for example, it was suggested that his residence in Holland had probably made him unsound in theological opinions, and when it was proposed to give him a degree, the heads of houses refused their consent. His friends, among whom were Sir William Blackstone and Dr. Lowth, afterwards bishop of London, were strong in his support, and in 1741 he was granted the degree of M.A., and incorporated of Jesus College. He became M.D. 1749, was elected F.R.S., and in 1754 a fellow of the College of Physicians (Munk, College of Physicians, ii. 189). His practice was extensive, and he purchased an estate near Runcorn. His happiness was disturbed by the death of a lady to whom he was, after a long engagement, about to be married, and he retired to his native place (1759) because this and some fits of illness made him disinclined for the exertions of professional life. At Runcorn, however, his practice soon became as extensive as it had been at Oxford. He worked on for nearly twenty years, and died of apoplexy 8 Dec. 1779. He was six feet high, of dark complexion and athletic make. Many stories were current of his successful cures and ready answers. A letter of his shows him to have been a resolute whig in politics, and in the church a follower of Hoadly. His Leyden thesis was on pneumonia. He published no other work, but told his biographer that he had begun to arrange some cases and to write on air, and on the effects of climate.

[Some Memoirs of the Life of Dr. Nathan Alcock, London, 1780.]

N. M.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.4
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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237 ii 22 Alcock, Nathan: for Wirrel read Wirral