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Peacock, Thomas Bevill (DNB00)

PEACOCK, THOMAS BEVILL, M.D. (1812–1882), physician, son of Thomas Peacock and his wife Sarah Bevill, members of the Society of Friends, was born at York on 21 Dec. 1812. At the age of nine he was sent to the boarding-school of Mr. Samuel Marshall at Kendal, where he remained till apprenticed to John Fothergill, a medical practitioner at Darlington. In 1833 he came to London, entered as a student of medicine at University College, also attending the surgical practice of St. George's Hospital, and in 1835 became a member of the College of Surgeons and a licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries. He then travelled for his health, twice visiting Ceylon, and studying for a time at Paris. He spent 1838 as house-surgeon to the hospital at Chester, and in 1841 went to Edinburgh, where in 1842 he took the degree of M.D. In 1844 he was admitted a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of London, and in 1849 was elected assistant physician to St. Thomas's Hospital. In 1850 he was elected a fellow of the College of Physicians, and in 1865 delivered the Croonian lectures there on ‘Some of the Causes and Effects of Valvular Disease of the Heart.’ A dispensary which he began in Liverpool Street, London, ultimately grew into the present Victoria Park Hospital for diseases of the chest, to which he was physician from its foundation, and where he did much excellent clinical work. He lectured at St. Thomas's Hospital, first on materia medica and then on medicine, and worked hard in its school. He was one of the founders of the Pathological Society of London in 1846, and was a very frequent contributor to its ‘Transactions.’ He was its secretary in 1850, vice-president 1852–6, and president in 1865 and 1866. In 1848 he published a valuable monograph ‘On the Influenza or Epidemic Catarrh of 1847–8,’ and in 1866 a treatise ‘On Malformations of the Human Heart,’ which is still the best English book on the subject. These, with his Croonian lectures and a small book ‘On the Prognosis in Cases of Valvular Disease of the Heart,’ published in 1877, are his most important separate publications. They contain numerous accurate observations, related with precision and many useful conclusions, though a want of generalisation detracts somewhat from their value as additions to science. It was perhaps this which prevented his election on the single occasion when he was a candidate for the fellowship of the Royal Society. He would not allow himself to be again nominated, but the society could hardly have found in London a man more deserving of honour as a disinterested and accurate observer in the laborious field of morbid anatomy. All his numerous papers in the ‘Transactions’ of the Medico-Chirurgical Society and of the Pathological Society, in the ‘Monthly Journal of Medical Science,’ the ‘British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review,’ the ‘Transactions’ of the Clinical Society, and the St. Thomas's Hospital ‘Reports,’ are worth reading, and contain material often used with just confidence by later investigators. The College of Surgeons gave him a gold medal in recognition of his valuable additions to their museum. In 1850 he married Cornelia Walduck, also a member of the Society of Friends, who died childless in 1869. He was fond of travelling, and in his holidays visited both North and South America, as well as the coasts of the Mediterranean. He lived at 20 Finsbury Circus, London, a region where many physicians resided in the second quarter of the 19th century. He had an attack of left hemiplegia in 1877, but recovered from the paralysis, and saw patients and attended at the Pathological Society, though obviously shattered. In 1881 he had a slight attack of right hemiplegia, from which he also recovered. On 30 May 1882, while walking in St. Thomas's Hospital, he became suddenly unconscious, fell in one of the corridors, was carried into a ward which was formerly under his own care, and died there the next morning, without having recovered consciousness.

[Lancet, 17 June, 1882; Memoir by Sir J. Marshall in Medico-Chirurgical Transactions, 1883; St. Thomas's Hospital Reports, new ser. vol. xi.; Works; private information.]

N. M.