Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Browne, William (1692-1774)

BROWNE, Sir WILLIAM (1692–1774), physician, was born in the county of Durham, and was the son of a physician. He entered Peterhouse, Cambridge, in 1707; graduated B.A. 1711, and M.A. 1714. In 1716, having received a license from the university, he began to practise medicine at Lynn, Norfolk, where he lived for over thirty years. He was considered to be eccentric, but he succeeded in making a fortune, and in 1749 he moved to London, where he lived for the rest of his life in Queen Square, Bloomsbury. In 1721 he took his M.D. degree at Cambridge. In 1725 he waa admitted a candidate at the College of Physicians, and in the next year a fellow. On 1 March 1738-9 he was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1748 he was knighted through the interest of the Duke of Montagu. After settling in London he passed through the various offices of the College of Physicians, and in 1765 and 1766 was president. At this time there was a violent dispute between the college and the licentiatea. Browne was a defender of the privileges of the universities, and had offended the licentiates by a pamphlet in the dispute with Dr. Schomberg (a 'Vindication of the Royal College of Physicians,' 1753). Foote caricatured him on the stage in his farce 'The Devil on Two Sticks.' Browne sent Foote a card complimenting him on his accuracy, but sending his own muff to complete the likeness. He found it difficult to maintain his dignity at the college, and on one occasion, when he was holding the comitia, the licentiates forced their way tumultuously into the room. Resolving to avoid such an affront in future, he determined to resign his office instead of holding it for the usual term of five years. On quitting the chair he delivered a humorous address, which was published in Latin and English. In this he declared that he had found fortune in the country, honour in the college, and now proposed to find pleasure at the medicinal springs. He accordingly went to Bath, where he called upon Warburton at Prior Park. Warburton gives a ludicrous description of the old gentleman, with his muff, his Horace, and his spy-glass, who showed all the alacrity of a boy both in body and mind. He returned to London, where, on St. Luke's day 1771, he appeared at Burton's coffee-house in a laced coat and fringed gloves to show himself to the lord mayor. He explained his healthy appearance by saying that he had neither wife nor debts. His wife bad died on 25 July 1763, in her sixty-fourth year. Browne died on 10 March 1774. He was buried at Hillington, Norfolk, under a Latin epitaph written by himself. He left a will profusely interlarded with Greek and Latin, and directed that his Elzevir Horace should be placed on his coffin. He left three gold medals worth five guineas each to be given to undergraduates at Cambridge for Greek and Latin odes and epigrams. He also founded a scholarship of twenty guineas a year, the holder of which was to remove to Peterhouse.

Browne's only daughter Mary was second wife of William Foflies, brother of Martin Follies, president of the Royal Society, In 1767 he presented his picture by Hudson to the College of Physicians.

Browne's works are as follows; 1. 'Translation of Dr. Gregory's Elements of Catoptrics and Dioptrics (with some additions),' 1715 and 1785. 2. 'Two Odes in imitation of Horace,' 1763 and 1765; the second written in 1741 on Sir Robert Walpole ceasing to be minister, and dedicated to the Earl of Orford, from whose family he had received many favours. 3. 'Opuscula varia utriusque linguiæ,' 1765 (containing the Harveian oration for 1751, also published separately at the time), 4. 'Appendix altera ad opuscula,' his farewell oration, also published in English, 1768. 5. 'Fragmentum Isaaci Hawkins Browne, arm., sive Anti-Bolligbrokius,' translated for a second 'Religio Medici,' 1768 (the Latin of I. H. Browne from the poems published by his son in 1768, with English by W. B.) 6. 'Fragmentum completum,' 1769 (continuation of the last in Latin and English by W. R.) 7. 'Appendix ad Opuscula' (a Latin ode with English translations), 1770. 6. 'A Proposal on our Coin, to remedy all Present and prevent all Future Disorders,' 1771 (dedicated to the memory of Speaker Onslow). 9. 'A New Year's Gift, a Problem and Demonstration on the Thirty-nine Articles' (explaing difficulties which had occurred to him on having to sign the articles at Cambridge), 1772, 10. 'The Pill-plot, to Dr. Ward, a quack of merry memory,' 1772 (written at Lynn in 1734). 11. 'Corrections in Verse from the Father of the College in Son Cadogan's Gout Dissertation, containing False Physic, False Logic, False Philosophy,' 1772. 12. 'Speech on the Royal Society, recommending Mathematics as the Qualification for their Chair,' 1772. 13. 'Elogy and Address,' 1773. 14 'Latin Version of the Book of Job' (unfinished).

Browne's best known production is probably the Cambridge answer to the much better Oxford epigram upon George I's present of Bishop Moore's library to the university of Cambridge: —

This king to Oxford sent a troop of horse,
For tories own no argument but force;
With equal care to Cambridge books he sent.
For whigs allow no force but argument.

[Munk's Coll. of Phys. ii. 95; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iii. 315-30; Letters from a late Eminent Prelate, p. 404.]

L. S.