Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Latham, John (1761-1843)

LATHAM, JOHN, M.D. (1761–1843), physician, was born on 29 Dec. 1761 at Gawsworth, Cheshire, of which parish his great-uncle was rector. He was the eldest son of John Latham of Oriel College, Oxford, vicar of Siddington, Cheshire, and Sarah Podmore of Sandbach, Cheshire. After education at Manchester grammar school, he entered Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1778, graduated B.A. on 9 Feb. 1782, M.A. on 15 Oct. 1784, M.B. on 3 May 1786, M.D. on 3 April 1788. From 1782 to 1784 he studied medicine at St. Bartholomew's Hospital (On Diabetes, p. 133). He began to practise medicine in Manchester, but soon moved to Oxford, where on 11 July 1787 he became physician to the Radcliffe Infirmary. In 1788 he removed to London, and was elected fellow of the College of Physicians on 30 Sept. 1789. He was elected physician to the Middlesex Hospital on 15 Oct. 1789, and resigned on his election to the same office at St. Bartholomew's Hospital on 17 Jan. 1793 (Manuscript Minute-book of Hospital). His practice became large, and he was a regular attendant at the College of Physicians, where he was censor the year after his election as fellow, and delivered the Harveian oration in 1794. He delivered the Gulstonian lectures in 1793, and the Croonian in 1795. He was president 1813–19 inclusive. In 1795 he became physician extraordinary to the Prince of Wales. He published 'A Plan of a Charitable Institution to be established on the Sea Coast' in 1791, and in 1796 'On Rheumatism and Gout a Letter addressed to Sir George Baker, Bart.' [q.v.] In this letter he states his opinion that neither acute rheumatism nor gout should be classed among inflammations, and that the seat of both is the radicles of the lymphatic vessels. He denies the heredity of gout, maintains the belief that an attack is ever beneficial to be erroneous, and advocates a very elaborate system of treatment.

Latham's house was in Bedford Row, and he had made a fortune and bought an estate at Sandbach before 1807. In that year he coughed up blood, and seemed about to die of consumption, but Dr. David Pitcairn cured him, and he retired for rest to his estate for two years. He had already (July 1802) resigned his hospital physiciancy, but he grew tired of country life, and returned to London, where he took a house in Harley Street. Practice soon came back to him, and he continued it till 1829. He retired in that year to Bradwall Hall in Cheshire, where he died of stone in the bladder on 20 April 1843.

Latham wrote 'Facts and Opinions concerning Diabetes' in 1811. Half of the book consists of long extracts from the Greek writers and from Willis on the subject, and the other half of cases carefully recorded. He was in favour of a dietetic treatment, and supported the views of Dr. John Rollo [q.v.]. The 'Medical Transactions' published by the College of Physicians in London contain ten papers by him: 'Cases of Tetanus,' 11 Dec. 1806, describing the effects of opium; 'Remarks on Tumours,' 11 Dec. 1806, on the clinical methods of distinguishing ovarian from hepatic tumours; 'On Angina Notha,' 11 Dec. 1812, describing symptoms like those of angina pectoris, but due not to cardiac but to abdominal disease; 'On Lumbar Abscess,' 13 Jan. 1813, mentioning the various directions it may take; 'On Leucorrhœa,' 31 March 1813; 'Cachexia Aphthosa,' 3 Jan. 1814; 'Superacetate of Lead in Phthisis,' 17 April 1815; 'On Anthelmintics and their Effects on Epilepsy,' 15 Nov. 1815; 'On the Medicinal Properties of the Potato,' the leaves of which he thinks superior as narcotics to henbane and hemlock; 'On the Employment of Venesection in Fits,' 16 Dec. 1819, a dissuasive from too frequent use of this remedy. His writings show that the parts of physic in which he excelled were clinical observation and acquaintance with the materia medica. He set aside a portion of his income for charity, and called this his corban fund. Besides his printed works he wrote an elaborate 'Dissertation on Asthma,' lectures on medicine, and lectures on materia medica.

Latham married Mary, daughter of Peter Mere, vicar of Prestbury, Cheshire. His eldest son, John, and his third son, Henry, are mentioned below, and his second son, Peter Mere, is noticed separately.

Latham's portrait was painted by Dance in 1798, and, when he was president of the College of Physicians, by Jackson.

Latham, John (1787–1853), poetical writer, eldest son of the above, born at Oxford on 18 March 1787, was sent to Macclesfield grammar school when five years old, and to Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1803. Reginald Heber [q.v.] was his contemporary and friend. In 1806 he won the university prize for Latin verse by a poem on Trafalgar, and in that year, while still an undergraduate, was elected a fellow of All Souls' College. In December 1806 he entered at Lincoln's Inn. Soon afterwards he was attacked by ophthalmia, and became almost blind. He returned to his college, and resided there, or with his father, till 24 May 1821, when he married Anne, daughter of Sir Henry Dampier. In 1829 he settled in Cheshire, near his father, whom he succeeded as squire in 1843. He died on 30 Jan. 1853. His eldest son, John Henry Latham (1823–1843), an accomplished scholar, had died while an undergraduate at Oxford, but two sons and a daughter survived him. His only publication was a volume of poems, published anonymously at Sandbach in 1836, but a volume of two hundred and fifty pages was printed in 1853, after his death, 'English and Latin Poems, Original and Translated.' They are devotional and domestic, the best being on the death of his wife. He translated into English verse a long passage of Tasso's 'Jerusalem Delivered,' and one of his best Latin poems is a translation of the 'Song of Judith.' His poems contain many reminiscences of Cowper, and while often graceful have seldom any higher merit.

Latham, Henry (1794–1866), poetical writer, third son of the above, was born in London 4 Nov. 1794, graduated at Brasenose College, Oxford, and there obtained a prize for Latin verse. He was admitted a barrister of Lincoln's Inn in 1820, but soon entered the church. He was vicar successively of Selmeston with Alciston and of Fittleworth, Sussex. He was a friend of Professor Conington, and retained through life a taste for classical studies. In 1863 he published at Oxford 'Sertum Shakesperianum, subnexis aliquot inferioris notæ floribus.' Sixteen are translations from Shakespeare and four from Cowper, others from the prayer-book, while ten are short original Latin poems. He died of cholera, 6 Sept. 1866, at Boulogne. He was twice married.

[Foster's Alumni Oxon. For the father: Papers in possession of Dr. J. A. Ormerod, his grandson; Munk's Coll. of Phys. ii. 393; Medical Gazette, 5 May 1843, Memoir by his son; Works; manuscript Minute-books of St. Bartholomew's Hospital. For the son John: Memoir prefixed to the posthumous volume of his poems. For the son Henry: Information from Dr. J. A. Ormerod.]

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