Page:A cyclopedia of American medical biography vol. 2.djvu/574

This page needs to be proofread.
WILLIAMSON
WILLIAMSON
514

by Theach, known as the pirate Blackbeard. After this little bit of romance in her life she settled down with John, the clothier, and had four girls and six boys, Hugh being the eldest one, a most studious lad, with a great liking for mathematics. His father gave him a very good education and meant him to go to Europe, but the College of Philadelphia receiving its charter, he was sent there and took his B. A. when twenty-two.

His first idea was to be a minister and he went as far as to become a licentiate, but a delicate chest and church disputes made him turn to another favorite study, medicine, which science he still pursued when, having taken his M. A. from his old college he became professor of mathematics there. Three years after, this serious, determined young man found his way to Edinburgh University, studying medicine there and in London and finally getting the M. D. of Utrecht. Then followed a very diversified life, writing with others concerning the transit of Venus in 1769, individually propounding original theories concerning the comet of that year and so on to a pamphlet on the "Variation of Climate in North America," a remarkably observant paper which brought him honorary memberships from Holland and an LL. D. from another foreign university. Arrayed in new honors he took a new role, that of collecting with some colleagues funds from the West Indies and Britain for the Academy of Newark, Delaware. The King of England gave a liberal donation "notwithstanding his great displeasure towards his American subjects," for Williamson was the first to report the tea party in Boston Harbor and advise the Privy Council to use conciliatory measures. Directly after, the war began and Williamson hearing of a clandestine correspondence detrimental to America being carried on between Hutchinson and leading members of the British Cabinet, by a bold ruse obtained the letters and sent them to Franklin, taking care to leave London the next day. But in the midst of these exciting events he found time for scientific experimentation with John Plunter and Franklin and read a paper before the Royal Society in London "On the Gymnotus Electricus or Electric Eel." On the declaration of independence he went back to Philadelphia and finding no army surgeonship open bought a trading sloop and did a little mercantile voyaging to the West Indies along with his brother from South Carolina, and while in the latter state was invited to Newborn to inoculate with the small-pox. In 1779 the merchant again became the doctor in real earnest as surgeon to the North Carolina Militia, doing valiantly for both conquerors and prisoners.

Peace, and three years as a Representative; eloquent always and sent to Annapolis as delegate to amend the Constitution. This piece of civic doctoring accomplished he married Maria, daughter of the Hon. Charles Ward Apthorpe, but she died when the younger of his two sons was only a few weeks old. The widower now devoted himself to his little boys and the writing of a big work on "Climate from a Medical Point of View" and on "The Fevers of North Carolina," and in 1812 appeared his big two-volumed "History of North Carolina," all this done along with endless scientific papers and a "Report as Commissioner to Inquire into the Origin of the New York Yellow Fever Epidemic in 1805."

The death of his beloved elder son in 1811 did not abate the zeal of a nearly heart-broken father for everything that could help his country and state. He took refuge among his books when weary, yet with unabated intellectual vigor he reached the first month of his eighty-fifth year "the punctuality and ability he had brought to his never decreasing duties being a continual source of surprise to his juniors."

On May 22, 1819, while taking his customary ride, the heat of the day being unusually great, "he suddenly sank into a deliquium" and was dead before aid