Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/MacCormac, Henry

MACCORMAC, HENRY, M.D. (1800–1868), physician, born at Fairlawn, co. Armagh, in 1800, was son of Cornelius MacCormac, an officer in H.M. navy. Having studied at Dublin, Paris, and Edinburgh, he graduated M.D. in the last university in 1824, and in the same year became a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. He then determined to travel and journeyed to Africa. After visiting the Cape of Good Hope, he went to Sierra Leone by land, and nearly succumbed to an attack of jungle fever on the way. He subsequently made two voyages to the United States. Soon afterwards he commenced practice as a physician in Belfast, where his abilities were recognised, and he was appointed physician to the Royal Hospital, then known as the Belfast Fever Hospital. In 1832 Asiatic cholera prevailed in Belfast, and MacCormac was appointed to take charge of the cholera hospital, and received a handsome testimonial and the thanks of the citizens for his exertions. He was subsequently chosen visiting physician to the Belfast District Lunatic Asylum, an office which he held until his death. He soon brought about a marked change in the condition of the inmates by his insistence upon more generous dietary, and during another epidemic of cholera there was not a single death in the asylum, which was ascribed to careful sanitation and the prophylactic administration of diluted mineral acids to the patients. MacCormac was also for a time professor of the theory and practice of medicine in the Royal Belfast Institution. In 1857 he was a candidate for the chair of materia medica in the Queen's College, Belfast. For many years he enjoyed an extensive consultation practice, but he gradually became more devoted to literary and scientific study, and about 1866 he relinquished the active duties of his profession and devoted himself to writing books. He is said to have possessed a knowledge of at least twenty languages, and was specially devoted to the study of comparative philology. In his medical treatises the topics on which he most insisted were his method of prevention and treatment of consumption and the danger of inhaling pre-breathed air. He urged very strongly the necessity of maintaining the purity of the air. He was also an ardent advocate of active physical exercise in the preservation of health. MacCormac died on 26 May 1886 at Fisherwick Place, Belfast. By his wife Mary, daughter of William Newsam, he was the father of Sir William MacCormac, the eminent surgeon.

MacCormac's writings include:

  1. 'A Treatise on the Cause and Cure of Hesitation of Speech or Stammering,' 8vo, Lond. 1838.
  2. 'On the best means of improving the Condition of the Working Classes,' 8vo, Lond. 1830.
  3. 'An Exposition of the Nature, Treatment, and Prevention of Continued Fever,' 8vo, Lond. 1836.
  4. 'The Philosophy of Human Nature in its Physical, Intellectual, and Moral Relations.' 8vo, Lond. 1837.
  5. 'Methodus Medendi, or the Description and Treatment of the principal Diseases incident to the Human Frame,' 8vo, Lond. 1843.
  6. 'On the Connection of Atmospheric Impurity with Disease,' 8vo, 1852, contributed to the Belfast Social Inquiry Society.
  7. 'Moral Sanatory Economy,' 8vo, Belfast, 1853 (two editions).
  8. 'On the Nature, Treatment, and Prevention of Pulmonary Consumption,' 8vo, Lond. 1855; 2nd edit. 1860. Translations appeared in German and in Dutch.
  9. 'On Tubercle,' 8vo, Belfast, 18S6, read before the Edinburgh Medico-Chirurgical Society.
  10. 'Twenty Aphorisms in respect to Health,' 24mo, Lond. 1857.
  11. 'Aspirations from the Inner, the Spiritual Life,' 8vo, Lond. 1860.
  12. Metanoia, a Plea for the Insane,' 8vo, Lond. 1861.
  13. 'The Painless Extinction of Life in Animals designed for Human Food,' 8vo, Lond. 1864.
  14. 'On Synthesis as taking Precedence of Analysis in Education,' 8vo, Lond. 1867.
  15. 'Consumption the Air re-breathed … a Sequel to Treatise on Consumption,' 8to, Load. 1872.

In the same year he published a reply to the reviewers of this book.

  1. 'How to Preserve Health on the Gold Coast,' 8vo, Lond. 1874.
  2. 'The Conyersation of a Soul with God's Theodicy,' 8vo, Lond. 1877.
  3. 'Moral Second Education for the Irish People versus Ultramontanist Instilment,' 8vo, Lond. 1879.
  4. 'Etiology of Tubercle, with Comments on Dr. R. Koch's Bacilli,' 6vo. Lond. 1882.
  5. 'The Air-Cure of Tubercular Consumption as conducted at Davos and the Engadine,' 8vo, Lond. 1883.

He also wrote on 'Cholera and its Arrest by Dilute Acids' (two treatises), and on 'The Open-Air Treatment of Fever.' From the Greek he translated the 'Meditations' of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, together with the 'Manual' of Epictetus, 12mo, 1844. He left extensive manuscript works on philology and insanity.

[Belfast News Letter, 27 May 1886. p. 8; Lancet, 5 June 1886. p. 1098; British Medical Journal, 5 June 1886, p. 1080: Medical History for 1886; Brit. Mm. Cat.]

G. G.