Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Bridges, John Henry
BRIDGES, JOHN HENRY (1832–1906), positivist philosopher, second son of Charles Bridges [q. v.] by Harriet Torlesse, his wife, was born on 11 Oct. 1832, at Old Newton, Suffolk, where his father was then vicar. Brought up in the strictest system of evangelical orthodoxy, he was at first educated at private schools. Entering Rugby in August 1845, under Dr. Tait, he left the school with a scholarship from the sixth form at midsummer, 1851, the head master then being Dr. Goulburn. He became senior scholar at Wadham College, Oxford, in Oct. 1851; was placed in the second class in classical moderations in 1853, and in the third class in the final examination in 1854. He was proxime accessit for the Hertford University scholarship in 1852, and gained the Arnold prize in 1856 for an essay on 'The Jews in Europe in the Middle Ages,' which was published in 'Oxford Essays,' 1857. On 1 Feb. 1855 he graduated B.A. and in March won a fellowship at Oriel. Thereupon Bridges took up the study of medicine; and after attending St. George's Hospital, London, and working in Paris, he graduated M.B. at Oxford in 1859.
In 1860 he married his cousin Susan, fifth daughter of C. Torlesse, vicar of Stoke-by-Nayland, and immediately (February 1860) emigrated to Melbourne in Australia, with high testimonials to his professional skill. The death of his wife followed soon after then: arrival. Bridges at once returned to England and began practice in Bradford, Yorkshire, where he was appointed physician to the infirmary in 1861. In 1867 he was elected F.R.C.P., and in 1869 he became a factory inspector for the North Riding. Next year he was appointed a metropolitan medical inspector to the local government board, and until his resignation in 1898 he resided in London, occupied with his official work at Whitehall. After his retirement he worked on the metropolitan asylums board and took part in movements for the improvement of the public health. He died at Tunbridge Wells on 15 June 1906, being buried there in the churchyard of St. Barnabas (for service of commemoration see Positivist Review, xiv. 179).
Bridges married secondly, in 1869, Mary Alice, eldest daughter of George Hadwen, of Kebroyde, a silk manufacturer of Halifax. Mrs. Bridges survived her husband. A life-sized portrait in oils was painted by Frederick Yates in 1906.
Bridges impressed his associates through life 'not merely with his ability but with his courageous pursuit of truth at all hazards.' At Wadham College he had come under the influence of Dr. Richard Congreve [q. v. Suppl. I], who was then fellow and tutor; and during the next thirty years he maintained a close friendship with him. Under Congreve's influence Bridges devoted himself, on leaving Oxford, to the study of the works of Auguste Comte. His friends at Wadham, Professor E. S. Beesly and Mr. Frederic Harrison, shared the faith which he developed in positivism. Bridges became one of the foremost leaders of the positivist movement in England. When an English positivist committee was nominated by Pierre Laffitte, Comte's successor in Paris, in 1879, Bridges was chosen the first president. From 1870 until his retirement in 1900 he constantly lectured to the Positivist Society in London and elsewhere. He had great familiarity with French language, society, and literature, and enjoyed the intimacy of all French positivists. He translated into English Comte's 'Politique Positive I.' (1865 and 1875) and published 'The Unity of Comte's Life and Doctrine—a reply to J. S. Mill' (1866; reprinted 1911), as well as 'Five Discourses on Positive Religion' (1882). To the 'Positivist Review' (1893-1906) he contributed a hundred articles. For the 'New Calendar of Great Men' (1892) Bridges wrote 194 biographies of very varied range, and also the general 'Introductions' on philosophy and science.
At the same time history, science, and social reform also occupied his pen. In 1866 he delivered before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh a course of lectures on 'Richelieu and Colbert' which were published, and obtained high praise from J. A. Cotter Morison [q. v.] and Mr. James Bryce. In 1869 he lectured to the Royal Institution of London on 'Health,' a subject on which he wrote and discoursed incessantly, publishing: 'Influence of Civilization on Health,' 1869; 'A Catechism of Health for Primary Schools,' 1870; and 'Moral and Social Aspects of Health,' 1877. In 1892 he delivered and published the annual Harveian oration before the Royal College of Physicians.
In 1897 Bridges edited for the Clarendon Press the text of Roger Bacon's 'Opus Majus' in two volumes. This work, of great importance to the history of science, occupied Bridges from 1893, but on its publication critics detected errors in the text duo to Bridges' misreading of the MSS. and to his dependence on Samuel Jebb's edition of 1733. He had also overlooked an important MS. at the Vatican. The volumes were withdrawn from circulation by the Clarendon Press, stock and copyright being transferred to Bridges, who reissued them in 1900 through Messrs. Williams & Norgate, with a new third volume, which presents parts i. and iii. of the 'Opus Majus' from a photographic copy of the Vatican MS. and a full list of corrections and emendations of the previously issued text with additional notes.
Bridges published, in addition to the works cited : 1. 'History an Instrument of Political Education,' 1882. 2. 'Centenary of the French Revolution,' 1890. 3. 'Harvey and Vivisection,' 1896. For a volume called International Policy' (1866) he wrote 'England and China,' and for Mr. Bryce's 'Two Centuries of Irish History,' 1888, a chapter called 'Ireland from the Union to Catholic Emancipation, 1801-1829.' He was a contributor to the 'Fortnightly Review,' 'La Revue Occidental,' and the ' Sociological Review,' 1905-6. In 1907 Professor L. T. Hobhouse, his brother-in-law, collected, with biographical 'Introduction' by Mr. Frederic Harrison, a selection of his 'Essays and Addresses,' including a commemorative address on Roger Bacon. Mrs. Bridges also issued in 1908 a collection of friends' 'Recollections' of her husband.
[Mrs. Bridges' collected Recollections of J. H. Bridges, 1908; introduction to Bridges' Essays and Addresses, 1907; the present writer's Autobiographic Recollections, 1911; personal knowledge from 1851 to 1906.]