Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Becket, William

BECKET, WILLIAM (1684–1738), surgeon and antiquary, was born at Abingdon, Berkshire. In the early years of the eighteenth century he was well known in London as a surgeon and an enthusiastic antiquary. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 11 Dec. 1718, and read three papers on 'The Antiquity of the Venereal Disease' at its meetings during the same year (Phil. Trans. vi. 368, 467, 492), and one on another subject in 1724 (ib. vii. 25). Becket was an original member of the Society of Antiquaries, which was virtually established in 1717, and lived on intimate terms with Stukeley, Bowyer, Browne-Willis, and other antiquaries. He was for some years surgeon to St. Thomas's Hospital, Southwark, but before 1736 he had retired to Abingdon, where he died 25 Nov. 1738. Dr. Stukeley, the well-known antiquary, adds in his common-place book to his note of the death of 'my old friend William Becket, surgeon,' that his papers were bought 'by the infamous Curl,' and purchased of Curll for thirty guineas by Dr. Milward (Stukeley's Memoirs, ed. Lukis (Surtees Soc.), i. 97).

His works are: 1. 'New Discoveries relating to the Cure of Cancers,' 1711 and 1712. 2. 'An Enquiry into the Antiquity and Efficacy of Touching for the King's Evil, with a Collection of Records,' 1722. John Anstis the elder gave Becket some assistance in this work (Nichols, Lit. Anecdotes, ii. 498). 3. 'Practical Surgery, illustrated and improved, with remarks on the most remarkable Cases, Cures, and Discussions in St. Thomas's Hospital,' 1740. 4. 'A Collection of Chirurgical Tracts,' 1740. Gough in his 'British Topography,' 1780 (i. 519), remarks, on Stukeley's authority, that Becket examined the wills in the prerogative office referring to Lincolnshire and other counties.

[Nichols's Lit. Anecdotes, ii. 88, v. 278; Nichols's Lit. llustrations, ii. 796; Watt's Bibliotheca Brit.; Thomson's Hist. of Royal Society, appendix, xxxiv; Archæologia, i. xxxvi n.]

S. L. L.