Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gibbes, George Smith

GIBBES, Sir GEORGE SMITH, M.D. (1771–1851), physician, was the son of the Rev. George Gibbes, D.D., rector of Woodborough, Wiltshire. From Dr. Mant's school at Southampton he proceeded to Exeter College, Oxford, graduated B.A. in 1792, was elected a fellow of Magdalen, graduated M.B. in 1796 and M.D. in 1799. He joined the College of Physicians in 1803, and was made a fellow the year after. In 1817 he delivered the Harveian oration before the college. He practised at Bath, where he was a prominent figure. In 1800 he published his ‘Treatise on the Bath Waters,’ followed by a second treatise on the same in 1803. In 1804 he was elected physician to the Bath Hospital. Later he became physician extraordinary to Queen Charlotte, and in 1820 was knighted by George IV. He took an active part in municipal business at Bath, and was a member of the corporation until 1834. In 1835 he gave up practice and went to live at Cheltenham. He died at Sidmouth on 23 June 1851, aged 80. He was twice married, first to a daughter of Edward Sealey of Bridgwater, who died in 1822; and secondly, in 1826, to Marianne, daughter of Captain T. Chapman, 23rd regiment.

His first essay was in the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ 1794, on the conversion of muscle into a substance resembling spermaceti (pamphlet on same theme, Bath, 1796). In 1799 he issued a syllabus of a course of chemical lectures given at Bath. Then came his two editions on the Bath waters. In 1809 he published ‘A Phlogistic Theory ingrafted upon M. Fourcroy's “Philosophy of Chemistry,”’ pt. i. pp. 32, Bath. His most considerable medical work was ‘Pathological Inquiries, or an Attempt to Explain the Phenomena of Disease,’ &c., Bath, 1818, a semi-popular but philosophical exposition of the principles of medicine, published for private circulation, of which this is a specimen: ‘The gout does the work which is left unfinished by the reactive energies of the digestive organs; and, as far as its curative powers go, produces a salutary outlet for the accumulated evils’ (p. 47). His address at the opening of the Bath Literary and Philosophical Institution was published, 1825, pp. 15. He was a fellow of the Royal Society and of the Linnean Society, having communicated to the latter an account of the contents of a bone-cave on the north-west side of the Mendip Hills, one of the earliest explored bone-caves in England (Trans. v. 143). To Nicholson's ‘Journal of Natural Philosophy’ he contributed a number of papers on the Bath waters and other chemical subjects (vols. ii. iii. xiv. xix.), and to Tilloch's ‘Philosophical Magazine’ a ‘Description of the Diacatoptron’ (xxxix. 1812).

[Gent. Mag. July 1851; Munk's Coll. of Phys. 1878, iii. 13.]

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