Parkinson, James (d.1824) (DNB00)

PARKINSON, JAMES (d. 1824), surgeon and palæontologist, was the reputed author of ‘Observations on Dr. Hugh Smith's Philosophy of Physic,’ published in 1780. He was already in practice in 1785, when he attended a course of lectures by John Hunter [q. v.] on the principles and practice of surgery, taking them down in shorthand and afterwards transcribing them. They were published in 1833 by his son J. W. K. Parkinson, F.R.C.S., under the title of ‘Hunterian Reminiscences.’

In October 1794 Parkinson was examined on oath before the privy council in connection with the so-called ‘Pop-gun Plot’ to assassinate George III in the theatre by means of a poisoned dart. He admitted being a member of the Committee of Correspondence of the London Corresponding Society, and of the Constitutional Society, and also that he was the author of ‘Revolutions without Bloodshed; or Reformation preferable to Revolt,’ a penny pamphlet published ‘for the benefit of the wives and children of the persons imprisoned on charges of High Treason,’ and of ‘A Vindication of the London Corresponding Society.’ In ‘Assassination of the King: or the Pop-gun Plot unravelled,’ by John Smith, one of the accused, is a letter from Parkinson, dated ‘Hoxton Square, August 29, 1795,’ detailing his examination.

Between 1799 and 1807 Parkinson published numerous small medical works, but was already collecting specimens and drawings of fossils, as appears from an appeal for assistance at the end of the second edition of his ‘Chemical Pocket-book’ (1801). In 1804 appeared the first volume of his ‘Organic Remains of a Former World,’ which Mantell, in 1850, describes as ‘the first attempt to give a familiar and scientific account … accompanied by figures’ of fossils, ‘a memorable event in the history of British Palæontology.’ The second and third volumes appeared in 1808 and 1811 respectively, when he was still practising medicine at 1 Hoxton Square. This, his chief work, was followed, in 1822, by a smaller one, ‘Elements of Oryctology: an Introduction to the Study of Fossil Organic Remains, especially of those found in British Strata.’ Parkinson died in Kingsland Road on 21 Dec. 1824. He was an original member of the Geological Society on its foundation in 1807, but did not live to see it chartered.

His other works included:

  1. ‘The Chemical Pocket-book,’ 1799, 12mo; 2nd edit. 1801; 3rd edit. 1803; 4th edit. 1809.
  2. ‘Medical Admonitions to Families,’ 2 vols. 1799, 12mo; 2nd edit. 1800; 3rd edit. 1801; 5th edit. 1809.
  3. ‘The Villager's Friend and Physician,’ 1800, 12mo.
  4. ‘The Hospital Pupil,’ 1800, 12mo, in four letters.
  5. ‘Dangerous Sports: a Tale addressed to Children,’ 1800, 16mo; another edit. 1808.
  6. ‘The Way to Health,’ 1802, 8vo.
  7. ‘Hints for the Improvement of Trusses,’ 1802, 8vo.
  8. ‘Observations on the Nature and Cure of Gout,’ 1805, 8vo.
  9. ‘Remarks on Mr. Whitbread's Plan for the Education of the Poor,’ 1807, 8vo.
  10. ‘Observations on the Excessive Indulgence of Children,’ 1807, 8vo.
  11. ‘An Essay on the Shaking Palsy,’ 1817 (library of the Royal College of Surgeons).
  12. ‘Elements of Oryctology,’ 3rd edit. 1840, 8vo.

He was also the author of several geological papers in Nicholson's ‘Journal,’ 1809–12, and in the first, second, and fifth volumes of the ‘Geological Society's Transactions,’ 1811–18.

[Mantell's Pictorial Atlas of Fossil Remains, London, 1850, Introduction; Watt's Bibliotheca Britannica; Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers, iv. 760; and the works above cited.]

G. S. B.