Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brooke, Charles (1804-1879)

BROOKE, CHARLES (1804–1879), surgeon and inventor, son of the well-known mineralogist, Henry James Brooke [q. v.], was born 30 June 1804. His early education was carried on at Chiswick, under Dr. Turner. After this he was entered at Rugby in 1819; thence he went to St. John's College, Cambridge, where he remained five years. He was twenty-third wrangler and B.A. 1827, B.M. 1828, and M. A. in 1853. During a part of this period he studied medicine, and his professional education was completed at St. Bartholomew's Hospital. He passed the College of Surgeons 3 Sept. 1834, and became a fellow of that institution 26 Aug. 1844. He lectured for one or two sessions on surgery at Dermott's School, and afterwards held positions on the surgical staff of the Metropolitan Free Hospital and the Westminster Hospital, which latter appointment he resigned in 1869.

He is known as the inventor of the 'bead suture,' which was a great step in advance in the scientific treatment of deep wounds. On 4 March 1847 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. He belonged to the Meteorological and Royal Microscopical Societies, and occupied the president's chair in each of these bodies. He also at various times served on the management of the Royal Institution and on the council of the Royal Botanical Society. In addition to these he was connected with many philanthropic and religious societies, and was a very active member of the Victoria Institute and Christian Medical Association. His public papers and lectures generally pertained to the department of physics, mathematical and experimental, and his more special work was the inventing or perfecting of apparatus. His papers date back to 1835, when he wrote upon the 'Motion of Sound in Space;' but the work upon which his reputation mainly rests was published between 1846 and 1852. This was the invention of those self-recording instruments which have been adopted at the Royal Observatories of Greenwich, Paris, and other meteorological stations. They consisted of barometers, thermometers, psychrometers, and magnetometers, which registered their variations by means of photography. His method obtained the premium offered by the government, as well as a council medal from the jurors of the Great Exhibition. The account of the perfecting of these apparatus will be found detailed in the British Association Reports from 1846 to 1849, and in the 'Philosophical Transactions' of 1847, 1850, and 1852.

Brooke also studied the theory of the microscope, and was the author of some inventions which facilitated the shifting of lenses, and improved the illumination of the bodies observed. He applied his improved methods to the investigation of some of the best known test-objects of the microscope. His name is, however, most popularly known by means of the 'Elements of Natural Philosophy,' originally compiled by Dr. Golding Bird in 1839, who alone brought out the second and third editions. After his death in 1854, Brooke edited 'a fourth edition, revised and greatly enlarged,' followed by a fifth in 1860. In 1867 he entirely rewrote the work for the sixth edition. He died at Weymouth, 17 May 1879, and his widow died at 3 Gordon Square, London, 12 Feb. 1885, aged 86.

His other publications were: 'The Evidence afforded by the Order and Adaptations in Nature to the Existence of a God. A Christian Evidence lecture,' 1872, which was three times printed, and 'A Synopsis of the Principal Formulæ and Results of Pure Mathematics,' 1829.

[Proceedings of Royal Society of London, 1880, xxx. pp. i-ii; Catalogue of Scientific Papers compiled by Royal Society, i. 653, vii. 273; Medical Times and Gazette, 1879, i. 606.]

G. C. B.