Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/King, William (1786-1865)

KING, WILLIAM (1786–1865), promoter of co-operation, born at Ipswich on 17 April 1786, was the son of the Rev. John King, many years master of the Ipswich grammar school. He was educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow. He graduated B.A. in 1809 (as twelfth wrangler), M.A. in 1812, licensed by the university 11 June 1817, and commenced M.D. at Cambridge in 1819. He became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1820, and delivered the Harveian oration in 1843. He was for a time private tutor of Lord Overstone, who highly esteemed him. In 1823 he settled at Brighton, and became known as a writer on co-operation and social questions. King, who was remarkable for his conversational power, obtained the confidence of Lady Byron. He was her adviser in schemes for improving the condition of the poor upon her estates, and she actively promoted the co-operative system, of which he was a remarkable advocate. From May 1828 to July 1830 he wrote a small monthly periodical, entitled ‘The Co-operator,’ the first which bore that name. No such publication before or since has excelled it in simplicity, persuasiveness, or in grasp of the ethical and economical principles to which the name of ‘co-operation’ was first given. Though each number consisted but of four pages, published at 1d., and issued anonymously, it was the most influential publication of the kind at that time. Lady Byron left 300l. with a view to publishing a selection of King's writings. This has not yet been adequately done.

King died at Brighton on 20 Oct. 1865. He was consulting physician to the Sussex County Hospital (1842–1861), and first president of the Brighton ‘Medical Chirurgical Society.’ Besides the ‘Co-operator,’ he wrote: ‘The Institutions of De Fellenberg,’ 1842; ‘Medical Essays,’ 1850; ‘Address to the Provincial Medical Surgical Society,’ 1851; an ‘Essay on Scrofula,’ in the ‘Medical Gazette;’ and (posthumous) ‘Thoughts on the Teaching of Christ,’ 1872.

[Munk's Coll. of Phys. iii. 226; Gent. Mag. 1865, ii. 797; personal knowledge.]

G. J. H.