Open main menu

Davis, John Bunnell (DNB00)


DAVIS, JOHN BUNNELL, M.D. (1780–1824), physician, son of a surgeon at Thetford, was born in 1780 at Clare, Suffolk. He was educated for his father's profession at Guy's and St. Thomas's hospitals, and became a member of the corporation of surgeons. Soon after receiving his diploma he went as medical attendant to a family travelling in France during the peace of Amiens, and had the misfortune to be treacherously detained by Bonaparte. He made the best of his circumstances, studied at Montpellier, and there graduated M.D. in 1803. At Verdun, to which he was soon after confined, he published ‘Observations on Precipitate Burial and the Diagnosis of Death.’ He sent the work to Corvisart, Bonaparte's first physician, with a petition for release. Corvisart, acting with a true professional fellow feeling, obtained Davis's release, and he returned to England in May 1806. He went to study at Edinburgh, and graduated M.D. there 24 June 1808, reading a dissertation on phthisis. He was admitted a licentiate of the College of Physicians, London, in 1810, and had shortly before (Walcheren Fever, p. 2) been appointed temporary physician to the forces, and was sent to attend, in a hospital at Ipswich, the troops invalided home from Walcheren. Of this service he published an account: ‘A Scientific and Popular View of the Fever at Walcheren and its consequences as they appeared in the British troops returned from the late expedition, with an account of the Morbid Anatomy of the Body and the Efficacy of Drastic Purges and Mercury in the treatment of this Disease,’ London, 1810. The prefatory remarks and the account of the symptoms are neither concise nor lucid, and the best part of the book is the collection of post-mortem records at the end. They show that what was called Walcheren fever included cases of several kinds, of dysentery, of enteric fever, and of enteric fever complicated with malarial fever. Davis settled in practice in London, where in 1816 he had a share in founding on St. Andrew's Hill in the City the Universal Dispensary for Sick Indigent Children, the first of the kind in London. He attended this institution as physician, and published an account of it in 1821. His other works are: ‘The Ancient and Modern History of Nice,’ London, 1807; ‘More subjects than one concerning France and the French People,’ London, 1807; ‘The Origin and Description of Bognor,’ London, 1807; ‘Cursory Inquiry into the Principal Causes of Mortality among Children,’ London, 1817. He died on 28 Sept. 1824.

[Munk's Coll. of Phys. 1878, iii. 95.]

N. M.