Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fletcher, John (1792-1836)

FLETCHER, JOHN, M.D. (1792–1836), medical writer, born in 1792, was the son of Thomas Fletcher, merchant, of London. Finding his father's counting-house irksome, he began the study of medicine at Edinburgh, having already been an occasional hearer of Abernethy and C. Bell in London. He graduated M.D. in 1816. After making a start in practice at Henley-on-Thames, whither his family had retired suddenly in reduced circumstances, he returned to Edinburgh and took private pupils in medicine. His Latin scholarship and systematic methods brought him many pupils. In 1828–9 he joined the Argyll Square school of medicine, having McIntosh, Argyle Robertson, and, for a time, James Syme, as his colleagues. He lectured on physiology, and afterwards on medical jurisprudence. His repute as a lecturer stood very high; in 1836 he gave a course of popular lectures on physiology to large audiences of the educated laity of both sexes, illustrated by preparations and diagrams of his own making. He died of a sudden illness the same year. His earliest publication was ‘Rubi Epistolæ Edinburgenses,’ being a collection of good-humoured satirical pieces on students and professors. In 1822 he published ‘Horæ Subsecivæ,’ a dialogue in Latin, and said to be a very useful little book. His principal work was ‘Rudiments of Physiology,’ in three parts, Edinb. 1835–7, the last part (on sensation, &c.) having been brought out by R. Lewins, M.D. It is distinguished by originality and erudition. His ‘Elements of Pathology,’ published several years after his death (1842) by two of his pupils, John J. Drysdale, M.D., and J. R. Russell, M.D., shows a certain leaning to the teaching of Hahnemann. A paper entitled ‘Vieles Sprechen ist gesund,’ in Behrend's ‘Wöchentl. Repert.’ iv. 175 (1837), is attributed to him. Besides one or two introductory lectures, his only other publication is a tract on the trial of Robert Reid for the murder of his wife, 29 June 1835; Reid was thought to have got off unfairly, on a medico-legal plea urged by Fletcher.

[Brit. and For. Med. Rev. 1836, ii. 302; biographical preface, by Lewins, to pt. iii. of Rudiments of Physiology.]

C. C.