Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Smith, Edward (1818?-1874)

SMITH, EDWARD (1818?–1874), physician and medical writer, born at Heanor, Derbyshire, about 1818, was educated at Queen's College, Birmingham, and graduated at London University, M.B. in 1841, M.D. in 1843, and B.A. and LL.B. in 1848. Next year he visited north-east Texas, to examine its capacity as a place of settlement for emigrants, and published an account of the journey and a report with charts of temperature and the new constitution of the state (London, 1849, 12mo). In 1851 he passed the examination for the diploma of fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England; in 1854 he became a member of the Royal College of Physicians, London, and in 1863 was elected a fellow of the college.

Physiological chemistry occupied much of his attention. In 1856 he read his first paper before the Royal Society (cf. Proceedings, vol. viii.) ‘On Inquiries into the Quantity of Air inspired through the Day and Night, and under the Influence of Exercise, Food, Medicine, and Temperature.’ This he followed up with kindred contributions—‘Inquiries into the Phenomena of Respiration;’ ‘Experiments on the Action of Food upon the Respiration’ (ib. vol. ix.); ‘Experimental Inquiries into the Chemical and other Phenomena of Respiration, and their Modifications by various Physical Agencies’ (publ. 1859, with two plates); and ‘On the Action of Foods upon the Respiration during the Primary Processes of Digestion’ (publ. 1859, two plates). In 1859 he also invented an instrument to measure the inspired air, and to collect the carbonic acid in the expired air. These researches on respiration won for him the fellowship of the Royal Society on 7 June 1860. Later on he read a paper before the society ‘On the Elimination of Urea and Urinary Water, in relation to the period of the Day, Season, Exertion, Food, Prison Discipline, Weight of Body, and other influences acting in the Cycle of the Year’ (Phil. Trans., with five plates, 1861). The last paper which he read before the society was entitled ‘Remarks upon the most correct Methods of Inquiry in reference to Pulsation, Respiration, Urinary Products, Weight of the Body, and Food’ (Proc. vol. xi. 1860–2).

Meanwhile Smith, in 1853, held the office of lecturer and demonstrator of anatomy at the Charing Cross Hospital school of medicine, and was appointed in 1861 assistant physician to the Brompton Hospital for Consumption. In 1862 he published ‘Consumption: its Early and Remediable Stages;’ he had previously published several papers on the pulse and the use of certain remedies in phthisis.

Dietetics formed the subject of most of his subsequent literary work. In the appendix to (Sir) John Simon's ‘Sixth Report’ he published ‘A Report to the Privy Council on the Food of the lowest-fed Classes in the Kingdom’ (1862). As a consequence he was consulted by the government on poor-law and prison dietaries, and was appointed medical officer of the poor-law board. In his official capacity he placed poor-law dietaries on a scientific practical basis. He also did much work in reforming, hygienically, the structural arrangements of workhouses and workhouse infirmaries. In its regulations on the subject of cubic space the poor-law board mainly adopted Smith's opinions, although they differed from those generally accepted by the medical profession. In 1871, when the poor-law board was merged in the newly created local government board, Smith was transferred to the medical department, with the title of assistant medical officer for poor-law purposes. His official reports, which were published as parliamentary papers, dealt, among other subjects, with ‘Metropolitan Workhouse Infirmaries and Sick-wards,’ 1866, and ‘The Care and Treatment of the Sick Poor in Provincial Workhouses,’ 1867. He resided in London, first at No. 6 Queen Anne Street, but afterwards at 140 Harley Street. He died of double pneumonia on 16 Nov. 1874. Smith possessed a rare faculty of systematising his knowledge and great facility as a writer. His chief publications, in addition to those already mentioned and to his contributions to periodicals, were: 1. ‘Structural and Systematic Botany,’ 1854; with new title-page, 1855. 2. ‘Natural History of the Inanimate Creation,’ 1856, 8vo (with D. I. Ansted and others). 3. ‘Practical Dietary for Families, Schools, and the Working Classes,’ 1864, 8vo; 3rd and 4th editions, 1865, 8vo. 4. ‘Health and Disease, as influenced by the Daily, Seasonal, and other Cyclical Changes in the Human System,’ 1861, 8vo. 5. ‘Reports to Privy Council on the Dietary of Lancashire Operatives, and of other Low-fed Populations,’ &c., 1862–3. 6. ‘How to get Fat,’ 1865, 8vo. 7. ‘Foods,’ in ‘International Scientific Series,’ 1872. 8. ‘A Manual for Medical Officers of Health,’ 1873; 2nd edit. 1874. 9. ‘A Handbook for Inspectors of Nuisances,’ 1873, 8vo. 10. ‘Health: a Handbook for Households and Schools,’ 1874, 8vo.

[Lancet, 1874; Medical Times and Gazette, 1874; Churchill's Medical Directory; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Royal Society's Cat. of Scientific Papers; Records of the Royal Society and University of London.]

W. W. W.