Connor, Bernard (DNB00)

CONNOR or O'CONNOR, BERNARD, M.D. (1666?–1698), physician and historian, descended from an ancient Irish family, was born in the county of Kerry about 1666. Being brought up as a catholic he was unable to receive a university education in his native country, but he was thoroughly instructed by private tutors. With the intention of adopting the medical profession he went to France about 1686, and studied at the universities of Montpelier and Paris, but took the degree of M.D. at Rheims on 18 Sept. 1691 (Munk, Coll. of Phys. 2nd edit. i. 514). He became highly distinguished in his profession, and was particularly skilled in anatomy and chemistry. When the two sons of the high chancellor of Poland were on the point of returning to their own country, it was arranged that they should be accompanied by Connor. He first conducted them to Venice, where he cured the Hon. William Legge, afterwards Earl of Dartmouth, of a fever. He then proceeded to Padua, and thence, through the Tyrol, Bavaria, and Austria, to Vienna. After some stay at the court of the Emperor Leopold he passed through Moravia and Silesia to Cracow and Warsaw. He was appointed physician at the court of King John Sobieski in consequence of letters of recommendation addressed to Hieronimo Alberto de Conti, the Venetian minister, whose wife was the Lady Margaret Paston, eldest daughter of Robert and sister to William, earl of Yarmouth. His reputation was increased by the decided opinion he gave, that the king's only sister, the Duchess of Radzevil, was suffering not from ague as other physicians maintained, but from an abscess in the liver. A post-mortem examination proved the correctness of Connor's diagnosis. In 1694 he was appointed to attend the king of Poland's only daughter, the Princess Teresa Cunigunda, who was to travel from Warsaw to Brussels to marry the elector of Bavaria. He set out with the princess on 11 Nov. 1694, and they arrived at Brussels on 12 Jan. 1694–5. Having resigned his charge to Dr. Pistorini, the elector's physician, he came in February to London and took up his residence in Bow Street, Covent Garden.

Soon afterwards he visited Oxford, where he lectured with great credit upon the discoveries of Malpighi, Bellini, Redi, and other celebrated scientific men whom he had known abroad. In 1695 he published ‘Dissertationes Medico-Physicæ. De Antris Lethiferis. De Montis Vesuvii Incendio. De Stupendo Ossium Coalitu. De Immani Hypogastrii Sarcomate,’ Oxford, 1695, 8vo. The above treatises, which are printed separately with distinct title-pages, show their author to have been a man of much thought and observation, as well as of great reading and general knowledge. He returned in the summer of 1695 to London, where in the ensuing winter he gave another course of lectures. On 27 Nov. 1695 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society (Thomson, List of Fellows of the Royal Soc. p. xxix). On 6 April 1696 he was admitted a licentiate of the College of Physicians. In the latter year he lectured at Cambridge.

In 1697 he published his ‘Evangelium Medici; seu medicina mystica de suspensis naturæ legibus, sive de miraculis; reliquisque en tois bibliois memoratis, quæ medicæ indagini subjici possunt,’ London, 8vo (two editions in the same year), reprinted at Amsterdam 1699. In this work he endeavours to show that the miraculous cures performed by our Lord and his apostles may be accounted for on natural principles. Its appearance made a great sensation, and the orthodoxy of the writer, who, after his settlement in London, had conformed to the established church, was impugned. He had taken the precaution, prior to the publication of the book, to obtain the license of the College of Physicians. In the British Museum there are two letters from Connor, each printed on a single sheet, defending himself from the charge of heterodoxy. One of these letters is addressed to the archbishop of Canterbury. As a further attestation of his sincerity he received the sacrament in the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

The election of a successor to King John Sobieski having drawn public attention to the affairs of Poland, Connor was desired to publish what he knew about that country. He accordingly wrote hurriedly ‘The History of Poland, in several letters to persons of quality, giving an account of the ancient and present state of that kingdom,’ 2 vols. London, 1698, 8vo. In preparing this work he had the assistance of a Mr. Savage, who wrote almost the whole of the second volume. It contained much new and interesting information, and was for a long time regarded as the best work on the subject. From it the account of Poland in Dr. Harris's ‘Collection of Travels,’ vol. ii. (1748), was principally derived.

Connor was attacked by a fever, of which he died in October 1698. He was buried at St. Giles's-in-the-Fields on the 30th, when his funeral sermon was preached by William Hayley, D.D. Hayley, who regarded him as a true and penitent member of the church of England, attended him in his last illness and gave him the sacrament, but almost immediately afterwards a catholic priest visited the dying man, gave him absolution, and it is supposed administered the last rites of the Roman church.

Besides the above-mentioned works, he wrote: 1. ‘Lettre écrite à Monsieur le Chevalier Guillaume de Waldegrave, premier medecin de sa Majesté Britannique. Contenant une Dissertation Physique sur la continuité de plusieurs os, à l'occasion d'une fabrique surprenante d'un tronc de Squelette humain, ou les vertebres, les côtes, l'os Sacrum, & les os des Iles, qui naturellement sont distincts & separez, ne font qu'un seul os continu & inseparable,’ Paris, 1691, 4to. 2. ‘Zωοθανάσιον θαυμαστόν, seu Mirabilis Viventium Interitus in Charonea Neapolitana Crypta. Dissertatio Physica Romæ in Academia ill. D. Ciampini proposita,’ Cologne, 1694. On the title-page of this and the previous work the author's name appears to have been originally printed ‘O'Connor,’ but the letter ‘O’ has been carefully cut out.

Funeral Sermon by Hayley; Biog. Brit. (Kippis); Sloane MS. 4041; MacGee's Irish Writers of the Seventeenth Century, p. 213; Cat. of Printed Books in Brit. Mus.; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), 511; Wilford's Memorials, p. 345.]

T. C.