Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/171

This page has been validated.
Latham
Latham
165

siastic observer of nature, and was interested in archæology. He was elected F.S.A. on 15 Dec. 1774, and F.R.S. 25 May 1775, and he took a leading part in establishing the Linnean Society in 1788. Ornithology and comparative anatomy were his favourite subjects of study, and his collection of birds was notably fine. He lived on terms of intimacy with the leading scientific men, and as early as 1771 began a correspondence with Thomas Pennant, which lasted till 1799. In his old age pecuniary losses forced him to sell a great part of his library and museum, and he began, at the age of eighty-one, his best-known book, a 'General History of Birds,' with the hope of recovering his financial position. He lived during the last years of his long life with his son-in-law at Winchester, devoted to nature, active, patient, cheerful to the end. Lord Palmerston visited him in the autumn of 1836, when he was ninety-six years old, and described him as 'well, hearty, and cheerful, eating a good dinner at five,' but adds that he could no longer see to read (Dalling, Life of Palmerston, 1874, iii. 18, 19). He died 4 Feb. 1837, and was buried in the abbey church of Romsey. An engraved portrait forms the frontispiece to vol. iv. of the 'Naturalist.'

Latham was twice married, for the first time in 1763, and for the second in 1798. His second wife was a Miss Delamott of Ealing. His son, also called John, a physician, died in 1843.

Latham's chief works are:

  1. 'A General Synopsis of Birds,' 3 vols. 4to, 1781–5; this contained many new genera and species.
  2. 'Index Ornithologicus sive Systema Ornithologiæ,' 2 vols. 4to, 1790, containing descriptions of all known birds and their habitats; reissued with additions at Paris in 1809 by Johanneau. The Linnean classification was modified in this book, and, as countless new specimens poured in upon Latham from all parts of the world, especially from Australia and the Pacific Islands, he prepared a second edition for publication, which is now in the hands of Professor Newton.
  3. 'A General History of Birds,' 1821–8, 11 vols., Winchester. This, an enlargement of his 'Synopsis,' is Latham's great work, and was dedicated to George IV. He designed, etched, and coloured all the illustrations himself. Latham is constantly referred to by ornithologists as the authority for the assigned names of species; but, as Professor Newton remarks, 'his defects as a compiler, which had been manifest before, rather increased with age, and the consequences were not happy.' The 'History' is, however, a marvellous achievement for a man at the age of 82.

Latham helped to revise the second edition of Pennant's 'Indian Zoology' in 1793; 'the more laborious part, relative to the insects,' falling to Latham's share. Two years later Latham's contribution on the subject reappeared in 'Faunula Indica, concinnata a Joanne Latham et Hugone Davies,' ed. J. R. Forster, Halle, 1795. Besides papers in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ and the 'Transactions of the Linnean Society,' Latham wrote accounts of 'Ancient Sculptures in the Abbey Church of Romsey' ('Archæologia,' vol. xiv. 1801) and of an engraved brass plate from Netley Abbey (ib. vol. xv. 1804). Other writings by his namesake, John Latham, M.D. (1761–1843) [q.v.], have been erroneously ascribed to him.

[Works; Professor Newton in Encycl. Britann. xviii. 6, art. 'Ornithology;' Nichols's Literary Illustrations of the Eighteenth Century, vi. 613, &c.; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ix. 26; Naturalist, iv. 26, &c., cf. ii. 56, 283; Gent. Mag. July 1837; Ann. Reg. 1837, p. 178.]

M. G. W.

LATHAM, JOHN, M.D. (1761–1843), physician, was born on 29 Dec. 1761 at Gawsworth, Cheshire, of which parish his great-uncle was rector. He was the eldest son of John Latham of Oriel College, Oxford, vicar of Siddington, Cheshire, and Sarah Podmore of Sandbach, Cheshire. After education at Manchester grammar school, he entered Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1778, graduated B.A. on 9 Feb. 1782, M.A. on 15 Oct. 1784, M.B. on 3 May 1786, M.D. on 3 April 1788. From 1782 to 1784 he studied medicine at St. Bartholomew's Hospital (On Diabetes, p. 133). He began to practise medicine in Manchester, but soon moved to Oxford, where on 11 July 1787 he became physician to the Radcliffe Infirmary. In 1788 he removed to London, and was elected fellow of the College of Physicians on 30 Sept. 1789. He was elected physician to the Middlesex Hospital on 15 Oct. 1789, and resigned on his election to the same office at St. Bartholomew's Hospital on 17 Jan. 1793 (Manuscript Minute-book of Hospital). His practice became large, and he was a regular attendant at the College of Physicians, where he was censor the year after his election as fellow, and delivered the Harveian oration in 1794. He delivered the Gulstonian lectures in 1793, and the Croonian in 1795. He was president 1813–19 inclusive. In 1795 he became physician extraordinary to the Prince of Wales. He published 'A Plan of a Charitable Institution to be established on the Sea Coast' in 1791, and in 1796 'On Rheumatism and Gout a Letter addressed to Sir George Baker, Bart.' [q.v.] In this letter he states his opinion that neither acute rheumatism nor gout