Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tierney, Matthew John

TIERNEY, Sir MATTHEW JOHN (1776–1845), physician, eldest son of John Tierney and his wife Mary, daughter of James Gleeson of Rathkinnon, co. Limerick, was born at Ballyscandland, co. Limerick, on 24 Nov. 1776. After medical study at the then united hospitals of Guy and St. Thomas in Southwark, he was appointed surgeon to the South Gloucester regiment of militia by Earl Berkeley, with whom he had become acquainted. Edward Jenner, whose house was close to the walls of Berkeley Castle, had convinced its lord of the utility of vaccination, and thus Tierney learnt the value of the procedure, and throughout life did all he could to spread the knowledge and practice of this protection against smallpox. In 1799 he entered as a student of medicine at the university of Edinburgh, and having heard the famous Professor James Gregory (1753–1821) [q. v.] deliver in lecture ‘a severe and unqualified opinion against cow-pock,’ he called upon him and so thoroughly convinced him of the error of this view that the professor asked Tierney to vaccinate his son, and this was done with vaccine virus obtained from Jenner. In 1801 Tierney migrated to Glasgow, and there graduated M.D. on 22 April 1802, reading a dissertation ‘De Variola Vaccina.’ He began practice as a physician at Brighton in 1802, and by the influence of Earl Berkeley was appointed physician to the household of the Prince of Wales at Brighton. On 30 Sept. 1806 he was admitted a licentiate of the College of Physicians of London, and in 1809 he was appointed physician extraordinary to the Prince of Wales. On 28 Jan. 1816 he became physician in ordinary to the prince regent, and when the prince became George IV he was made physician in ordinary to the king. He held the same post under William IV. On 3 Oct. 1818 he was created a baronet, and on 7 May 1831 a knight commander of the Guelphic order. He published at Brighton in 1845 ‘Observations on Variola Vaccina or Cow-pock.’ He died at Brighton on 28 Oct. 1845. On 8 Oct. 1808 he married Harriet Mary, daughter of Henry Jones of Bloomsbury Square, but having no children, on 5 June 1834 he was granted a second patent of baronetcy with remainder to his younger brother, Edward Tierney of Dublin.

[Munk's Coll. of Phys. iii. 44; Gent. Mag. 1846, i. 206; Works.]

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