Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 46.djvu/394

There was a problem when proofreading this page.


unsuited to his health, and society changed from what it had been in his younger days, he soon returned to London. Before leaving Edinburgh he presented a manuscript collection of his ‘Medical and Physical Observations,’ in ten volumes, folio, to the library of the College of Physicians in that city. On his return to London he resumed his old life, but died from a fit of apoplexy on 18 Jan. 1782. He was buried in St. James's Church, Piccadilly, and a monument to his memory by Nollekens was afterwards erected in Westminster Abbey, at the expense of his nephew and heir, Sir James Pringle of Stitchel. His portrait, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, is in the possession of the Royal Society. It is engraved in Pettigrew's ‘Medical Portrait Gallery’ (vol. ii.).

Pringle's great work in life was the reform of military medicine and sanitation. His experience in these matters was very large, and it was reinforced by systematic observation and scientific research. He was among the first to see the importance of putrefactive processes in the production of disease, and probably quite the first physician to apply his scientific principles practically in the prevention of such diseases as dysentery and hospital fever, which were the scourge of armies in his day. The sanitary measures which he insisted upon are now regarded as essential to the preservation of the health of troops in the field or in camp. His book, ‘Observations on the Diseases of the Army,’ published in 1752, rapidly acquired a European reputation, and has ever since been regarded as a medical classic. On these grounds he may fairly be regarded as the founder of modern military medicine, in distinction from surgery, and he has been recognised as such by the most eminent authorities on the subject both abroad and at home. His researches ‘On Septic and Antiseptic Substances’ have a still wider importance in relation to general medicine, tending in the same direction as recent discoveries which have obtained an overwhelming importance in modern medical science. They were first communicated to the Royal Society, which rewarded them with the Copley medal, and afterwards incorporated in his work on diseases of the army. Along with these should be mentioned his memoirs on the gaol fever, or typhus, which he showed to be the same as the hospital fever. This subject he first treated in a letter to Dr. Mead published in 1750, and afterwards in a communication to the Royal Society in 1753.

An important amelioration in the treatment of sick and wounded soldiers is also attributed to Pringle. It was probably at his suggestion that the Earl of Stair, when commanding the British forces in Germany, proposed to the French commander, the Duc de Noailles, that military hospitals on either side should be regarded as neutral, and mutually protected. This humane practice was observed throughout the campaign, and has now become the universal custom in European wars. Few physicians have rendered more definite and brilliant services to science and humanity.

He wrote: 1. ‘De Marcore Senili’ (inaugural diss.), Leyden, 1730, 4to. 2. ‘Observations on the Nature and Cure of Hospital and Jayl Fevers,’ London, 1750, 8vo. 3. ‘Observations on the Diseases of the Army,’ London, 1752, 8vo; 7th edit. 1782; last edit. 1810. 4. ‘Six Discourses delivered at the Royal Society, on occasion of the Annual Assignment of the Copley Medal; with Life of the Author by Andrew Kippis, D.D.,’ London, 1783, 8vo. Some or all of these discourses were published separately in 4to, 1773–8 (Lowndes). Among Pringle's contributions to the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ the most important are three papers on ‘Experiments upon Septic and Antiseptic Substances, with Remarks relating to their Use in the Theory of Medicine,’ 1750, vol. xlvii.; and an ‘Account of several Persons seized with the Gaol Fever, working at Newgate,’ 1753, vol. xlviii. He also published letters on the prophecies of Daniel, addressed to him by J. D. Michaelis, professor at Göttingen, as ‘J. D. Michaelis Epistolæ de LXX Hebdomadis Danielis, ad D. J. Pringle,’ London, 1773, 8vo.

‘A Rational Enquiry into the Nature of the Plague, by John Pringle,’ London, 1722, 12mo, is by a namesake, but no connection of Sir John Pringle.

[Life, by Kippis, 1783, mentioned above (the only original authority); Lives of British Physicians, 1830; Munk's Coll. Phys. 1878, ii. 252; Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill, passim (see index); Allardyce's Scotland and Scotsmen in the Eighteenth Century; Chambers's Biogr. Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen; Burton's Hist. of Scotland. viii. 552.]

J. F. P.

PRINGLE, ROBERT (d. 1736), politician, was the third son of Sir Robert Pringle, first baronet, of Stitchel, by his wife, Margaret, daughter of Sir John Hope, a lord of session under the title of Lord Craighall. He was a younger brother of Sir Walter Pringle of Lochton, lord Newhall [q. v.] After studying for some time at the university of Leyden, which he entered 19 Nov. 1687 (Index to Leyden Students, p. 80), he took service under William, prince of Orange, with whom he