Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Archer, Edward

ARCHER, EDWARD (1718–1789), physician, was born in Southwark, studied medicine in Edinburgh and afterwards in Leyden, where he graduated M.D. in 1746 with an inaugural dissertation, 'De Rheumatismo.' In 1747 he was elected physician to the Small-pox Hospital, which had just then been founded, and for the remainder of his life devoted the greater part of his thought and activity to the welfare of this institution and to the study and cure of the small-pox. This institution formed originally two establishments, viz. 'The Hospital for the Small-pox' and 'The Hospital for Inoculation,' and was founded chiefly to give the poor the advantages of the practice of inoculation, which had been previously an expensive operation and almost confined to the rich. Dr. Archer was a steady advocate and practiser of inoculation, and died some years before the introduction of vaccination which was destined to supersede it. He does not appear to have written any separate work on that or any other subject, but an account of the Small-pox Hospital, and, incidentally, of Dr. Archer's practice there, is given in a report by a Dr. Schultz, made to the Swedish government ('An Account of Inoculation, presented to the Royal Commissioners of Health in Sweden, by David Schultz, M.D., who attended the Small-pox Hospital in London near a twelvemonth; translated from the Swedish, London, 1758'), to which Dr. Archer prefixed a commendatory letter. Dr. Archer also wrote a very short note on the subject in the 'Journal Britannique' for 1755 (xviii. 485. La Haye, 1755). He is described as having been a 'humane, judicious, and learned physician, and an accomplished classical scholar.' Being possessed of a private fortune, and unambitious, he was never very busily or profitably engaged in practice. When attacked by his last and fatal illness. Dr. Archer gave a singular and almost unparalleled proof of his interest in the Small-pox Hospital by expressing a wish to die within its walls, whither he was accordingly removed. He ended his life 28 March 1789, in the institution which he had served so well for forty-two years, and the success of which was mainly attributed to his zeal and energy. His portrait, by Pine, is in the board-room of the hospital.

[Gent. Mag. 1789, part i. 373; Munk's Roll of College of Physicians, ii. 182.]

J. F. P.