Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bostock, John (1773-1846)

BOSTOCK, JOHN, the younger (1773–1846), physician, was son of Dr. John Bostock of Liverpool [q. v.], and was born in that city. He was educated at the university of Edin- burgh, where he graduated M.D. in June 1798. His thesis was on secretion in general, and in particular on the formation of the bile. It shows that he was familiar with the recent writings of Fourcroy and with the investigations of Scheele, Priestley, and Lavoisier, and that he had himself made some original experiments in chemistry. This essav is dedicated to William Roscoe, who had been kind to the author. His connection with Roscoe deserves notice, as a certain resemblance of style may be traced between Bostock's compositions and those of the editor of Pope. Bostock arouses expectation and disappoints it, uses superficial knowledge as if it were profound learning, is never concise, and rarely clear ; seldom full, but often prolix. He settled in Liverpool and soon became a well-known man. In 1810 he there published 'Remarks on the Nomenclature of the New London Pharmacopœia,' 8vo. The London College of Physicians had published a new edition of the 'Pharmacopœia,' and Dr. Powell, a physician of considerable learning and high character, had been one of the chief editors. This pamphlet attacks the college with bitterness, and treats Dr. Powell with a disrespect which must have done Bostock harm in his profession. Powell's terms have almost all come into general use, while Bostock's suggested improvements are forgotten. He advocated the use of long chemical and botanical terms instead of simple denominations. An aromatic oil then new to medicine was called in the 'Pharmacopœia' 'Cajuputi oleum,' for which simple term Bostock wanted the name 'Oleum essentiale melaleucæ cajeputi,' and all his alterations were of this pedantic kind. In 1817 Bostock moved to London. The year after his arrival he published 'An Account of the History and Present State of Galvinism (sic),' perhaps the only one of his books still worth reading. He gave up the practice of medicine and took to chemistry, physiology, and general science. He contributed several articles to Brewster's 'Encyclopædia,' and in 1824 published the first of three volumes called 'An Elementary System of Physiology,' a book which was a good deal read till the publication of Baly's translation of Müller's 'Physiology,' but is now merely an obsolete textbook. At the same period Bostock lectured on chemistry at Guy's Hospital. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1829 published a paper in the 'Philosophical Transactions' 'On the Purification of Thames Water.' In this he discusses with much ability the nature of the several impurities, and shows some capacity for experiment, with a knowledge of all the chemistry of that period. In 1836 he published as an octavo volume his 'Sketch of the History of Medicine from its Origin to the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century,' previously contributed to the 'Cyclopædia of Practical Medicine.' The work shows small acquaintance with medical books, and has no merit of originality. In 1836 he brought out a third edition of his 'Physiology,' and he wrote a great number of articles and papers, but few of permanent value. The activity of his mind and the range of his work are shown by the fact that in 1826 he was president of the Geological Society, in 1832 vice-president of the Royal Society, and for many years an active member of the Medico-Chirurgical Society. In its 'Transactions' (vols. x. and xii.) he has described his own case in a paper on hay fever. Heberden had given a brief account of the disorder, so brief as to be little more than a hint, and to Bostock belongs the credit of giving the first complete description of the disease. Bostock died of cholera in August 1846. His life was one of continued and useful industry, and though few of his writings deserve to be read now, his description of hay fever entitles him to a place in the history of medicine.

[Gent. Mag. (new ser.) vol. xxvi. (1846), pt. ii. 65; Lancet, Aug. 15, 1846 ; Bostock's Works.]

N. M.