Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hawes, William (1736-1808)

HAWES, WILLIAM, M.D. (1736–1808), founder of the Royal Humane Society, was born at Islington, London, on 28 Nov. 1736, and was educated at first by John Shield, and afterwards at St. Paul's School. After passing some time with Mr. Carsan, a medical practitioner, of Vauxhall, he became assistant to a Mr. Dicks in the Strand, and eventually succeeded him in his practice. About 1773 he became well known in consequence of the energy with which he maintained the possibility of resuscitating persons apparently dead from drowning or other causes of asphyxia. During a whole year he gave out of his own pocket a reward to any one who brought to him or to some of his supporters the body of a person who had been taken out of the Thames insensible, within a reasonable time after immersion. The reward was paid whether the attempt to resuscitate proved successful or not. Dr. Thomas Cogan (1736–1818) [q. v.], who translated in 1773 an account of an Amsterdam society for the resuscitation of the apparently drowned, objected to his bearing all the expense of the rewards, and it was arranged in 1774 that he and Cogan should each bring fifteen friends to the Chapter coffee-house to consider further operations. This was done, and at the meeting the Humane Society was formed. Hawes became its registrar. He was also physician to the London Dispensary. From 1791 he lived in Spital Square, and in 1793 made great efforts to alleviate the distress which then prevailed among the Spitalfields weavers. He died 5 Dec. 1808. He wrote the following works: 1. ‘An Account of Dr. Goldsmith's Illness,’ 1774. 2. ‘An Examination of the Rev. John Wesley's Primitive Physic,’ 1776; 3rd ed. 1780. 3. ‘An Address on Premature Death and Premature Interment,’ 1777. 4. ‘An Address to the Public on the Dangerous Custom of laying out persons as soon as Respiration ceases, with a Reply by W. Renwick, and Observations on that Reply,’ 1778. 5. ‘An Address to the Legislature on the importance of a Humane Society,’ 1781. 6. ‘An Address to the King and Parliament of Great Britain on the important subject of preserving the Lives of its Inhabitants,’ 1782, 3rd ed., to which are now added Observations on the ‘General Bills of Mortality,’ 1783. 7. ‘The Transactions of the Royal Humane Society from 1774 to 1784, with an Appendix of Miscellaneous Observations on Suspended Animation to the year 1794.’

[Gent. Mag. 1808 lxxviii. 1121–4, 1811 lxxxi. pt. i. p. 305; European Mag. 1802, pp. 427–31; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. vi. 627; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Brit. Mus. Cat. of Printed Books.]

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