Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brookes, Joshua (1761-1833)

BROOKES, JOSHUA (1761–1833), anatomist, was born on 24 Nov. 1761, and studied anatomy and surgery in London under William Hunter, Hewson, Andrew Marshall, and Sheldon, afterwards attending the practice of Portal and other eminent surgeons at the Hôtel-Dieu, Paris. Returning to London he commenced to teach anatomy and form a museum. He was an accurate anatomist and excellent dissector, and prepared very many of the specimens in his museum. He invented a very useful method of preserving subjects for his lectures and class dissections, so as to preserve a healthy colour and arrest decomposition. For this he was elected F.R.S. His success as a teacher was so great that in the course of forty years more than five thousand pupils passed under his tuition in anatomy and physiology. He was very devoted to the formation of his museum, which from first to last cost him 30,000l., and was second only to that of John Hunter. It included a vast collection of specimens illustrating human and comparative anatomy, morbid and normal. His brother kept the celebrated menagerie in Exeter Change, and thus Brookes easily obtained specimens. In 1826, owing to ill-health brought on by constant presence in the atmosphere of the dissecting-room, he was compelled to leave off teaching; and at a dinner presided over by Dr. Pettigrew he received from the hands of the Duke of Sussex a marble bust of himself, subscribed for by his pupils. After vainly endeavouring to dispose of his museum entire, he was compelled to sell it piecemeal. The final sale took place on 1 March 1830 and twenty-two following days; but very little was realised for Brookes's support in his old age. He died 10 Jan. 1833, in Great Portland Street, London.

His published writings include 'Lectures on the Anatomy of the Ostrich' ('Lancet,' vol. xii.); 'Brookesian Museum,' 1827; 'Catalogue of Zootomical Collection,' 1828; 'Address to the Zoological Club of the Linnean Society,' 1828; 'Thoughts on Cholera,' 1831, proposing most useful hygienic precautions, especially as to the cleansing of the slums; and a description of a new genus of Rodentia (Trans. Linn. Soc., 1829).

[Museum Brookesianum, Descriptive and Historical Catalogue, 1830 ; Lancet, 19 Jan., 31 Aug., and 14 Dec. 1833; Memorials of J. F. South, 1884, pp. 103-6.]

G. T. B.