Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fothergill, Anthony (1732?-1813)

FOTHERGILL, ANTHONY (1732?–1813), physician, was born in 1732, or, according to other accounts, 1735, at Sedbergh, Yorkshire. He studied medicine at the university of Edinburgh, where he graduated M.D. October 1763 with a dissertation ‘De Febre Intermittente,’ and afterwards continued his studies at Leyden and Paris. By the advice of the eminent Dr. John Fothergill [q. v.] (who was an intimate friend, but not a relative of Anthony), he settled as a physician at Northampton, where, after some preliminary difficulties, he was successful in practice, and was in 1774 appointed physician to the Northampton Infirmary. He was admitted licentiate of the College of Physicians 30 Sept. 1779, and F.R.S. in 1778. On the death of John Fothergill, in 1780, Anthony removed to London, and established himself in the house in Harpur Street, Red Lion Square, formerly occupied by his namesake, in the hope of succeeding to his professional business. But in this he was disappointed, and not prospering in London he removed in 1784 to Bath, where he acquired a large and lucrative practice. In 1803 he retired from active life, and went to Philadelphia, where he lived for some years, and where he apparently intended to pass the rest of his days, but was recalled to England by the prospect of war in 1812, and died in London 11 May 1813. By his will he left a considerable part of his large fortune to charitable institutions in London, Bath, and Philadelphia, and appropriated 1,000l. to publishing his works. The editing and selection he desired to be undertaken by his friend Dr. Lettsom, to whom he bequeathed other legacies. But Dr. Lettsom died two years afterwards, having, it is said, through legal delays, not benefited by the legacies left to him. In consequence, no selection from the manuscripts, which were contained in twelve thick folio volumes, was ever made for publication.

Fothergill seems to have been a skilful doctor, who succeeded in obtaining the confidence of the public. He was also possessed of scientific attainments, especially in chemistry, which he made use of in analysing mineral waters. But he was best known for his researches and publications on the methods of restoring persons apparently dead from drowning or similar casualties. For his essay on this subject he received, in 1794, a gold medal from the Royal Humane Society, an institution which he actively supported. His other medical books have mostly some reference to health or diet, and he published a number of memoirs in medical transactions, chiefly records of remarkable cases. Though all were sound and creditable, none of his publications can be said to rise above mediocrity. He was highly respected for his integrity and his philanthropic efforts. He wrote (all in 8vo): 1. ‘Hints for Restoring Animation, and for Preserving Mankind against Noxious Vapours,’ Lond. 1783 (Munk), 3rd edit. 2. ‘Experimental Enquiry into Nature of the Cheltenham Water,’ Bath, 1785, 1788, &c. 3. ‘Cautions to the Heads of Families concerning the Poison of Lead and Copper,’ Lond. and Bath, 1790. 4. ‘A New Enquiry into the Suspension of Vital Action in Cases of Drowning and Suffocation,’ Lond. 1795, Bath, 1795, &c. (prize essay). 5. ‘Essay on the Abuse of Spirituous Liquors,’ Bath, 1796. 6. ‘A Preservative Plan, or Hints for Preservation of Persons Exposed to Accidents which Suspend Vital Action,’ Lond. 1798. 7. ‘On the Nature of the Disease produced by Bite of a Mad Dog,’ Bath, 1799. 8. ‘On Preservation of Shipwrecked Mariners,’ in answer to prize questions of Royal Humane Society, Lond. 1799. Some of these books are virtually repetitions of earlier ones; 4 and 6 were translated into German. In ‘Philosophical Transactions’ he wrote ‘On a Cure of St. Vitus's Dance by Electricity’ (vol. lxix.), and one other paper. He contributed seven papers to ‘Memoirs of Medical Society of London,’ of which may be mentioned ‘On the Epidemic Catarrh, or Influenza, at Northampton in 1775’ (vol. iii.); ‘On Arteriotomy in Epilepsy’ (vol. v.), &c. Also memoirs in ‘Medical Observations and Enquiries’ (vol. iii. 1767), and in ‘Medical Commentaries’ (vol. ii.). In ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (vol. lxxxi. pt. i. p. 367) he published a poem on the ‘Triumvirate of Worthies, Howard, Hawes, and Berchtold.’

[Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ix. 213, from materials furnished by Dr. J. C. Lettsom (the original authority); Munk's Coll. of Phys. 1878, ii. 322; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Georgian Era, ii. App.]

J. F. P.