Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thompson, Theophilus

THOMPSON, THEOPHILUS (1807–1860), physician, son of Nathaniel Thompson, was born at Islington on 20 Sept. 1807. His early professional education was received at St. Bartholomew's Hospital and at Edinburgh, where he took the degree of M.D. in 1830, the subject of his inaugural dissertation being ‘De effectibus aliquando perniciosis missionis sanguinis.’ He also studied at Paris with Louis, Andral, and Dupuytren, and attended the lectures of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire at the Jardin des Plantes. Soon after settling down to practice in London he was appointed physician to the Northern Dispensary, which office he held for fourteen years; he was also one of the lecturers at the Grosvenor Place school of medicine. In 1847 he was elected physician to the hospital for consumption, then situated in Marlborough Street; in this institution he took great interest, and his writings show how thoroughly he availed himself of his opportunities for studying the disease. He first introduced cod-liver oil into England, and was the first to give bismuth to arrest the diarrhœa of phthisis, and oxide of zinc for night sweats. The nomenclature of physical signs in lung affections, now in use, is largely due to his suggestions.

Thompson was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1846, and in the ‘Proceedings’ of that society (vii. 41 and ix. 474) are two papers by him on the changes produced in the blood by the administration of cod-liver oil and cocoanut oil. He filled the presidential chairs of the Medical and Harveian societies, and contributed five papers to the ‘Transactions’ of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society. Thompson died on 11 Aug. 1860. He married the second daughter of Nathaniel Watkin of Stroud, Gloucestershire. Thompson was the author of: 1. ‘On the Improvement of Medicine,’ an oration, 1838. 2. ‘History of the Epidemics of Influenza in Great Britain from 1510 to 1837’ (Sydenham Soc.), 1852; a new edition bringing the subject down to 1890 was issued by his son, Dr. E. Symes Thompson, in 1890. 3. ‘Clinical Lectures on Pulmonary Consumption,’ 1854. 4. ‘Lettsomian Lectures on Pulmonary Consumption.’ He also contributed the articles ‘Chorea,’ ‘Hysteria,’ ‘Neuralgia,’ and ‘Influenza’ to Tweedie's ‘Library of Medicine.’ There are in the possession of the family a watercolour portrait by Alfred Essex and a miniature by William Essex.

[Lancet, 1860, ii. 276; Proc. Roy. Soc. vol. xi. p. xxxi; private information kindly supplied by his sons, Dr. E. Symes Thompson and Rev. A. P. Thompson.]

T. B. B.