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Walker, John (1759-1830) (DNB00)

WALKER, JOHN (1759–1830), man of science, born at Cockermouth in Cumberland on 31 July 1759, was the son of a smith and ironmonger in that town. He was educated at the grammar school, and afterwards engaged in his father's occupation of blacksmith. In 1779 he went to Dublin with the intention of joining a privateer. The vessel had, however, been taken by the French, and Walker, who had already studied the art of engraving at Cockermouth, placed himself under an artist named Esdale. He made rapid progress, and between 1780 and 1783 contributed several plates to Walker's 'Hibernian Magazine.' Under the influence of the quakers, however, he was seized with scruples in regard to his art, and, abandoning it, set up a school, which was fairly prosperous. He laid much emphasis on a kindly method of treating his pupils, and deprecated corporal punishment as subversive of discipline. Although he afterwards assumed the garb and style of a quaker, he was never admitted into the fellowship of the Friends on account of a suspicion that his faith was unsound. In 1788 he published in London a treatise on the 'Elements of Geography and of Natural and Civil History,' which reached a third edition in 1800. With a view to improving the second edition, which appeared in 1793, and of preparing a 'Universal Gazetteer,' he undertook a journey through the greater part of England and Ireland in 1793, returning to Dublin in the following year. The protective duty imposed in Dublin was so high that he was obliged to go to London to print his books. He made over his school to his friend, John Foster (1770–1843) [q. v.], the essayist, and removed to the English capital. His 'Universal Gazetteer' (London, 8vo) appeared in 1795, reaching a sixth edition in 1815.

Soon after settling in London Walker turned his attention to medicine, entering himself as a pupil at Guy's Hospital. In 1797 he visited Paris, where he gained notoriety by refusing to take off his hat in the conseil des anciens or to wear the tricolour. He was on terms of friendship with James Napper Tandy [q. v.], Thomas Paine [q. v.], and Thomas Muir [q. v.], and esteemed Paine a great practical genius. From Paris he proceeded to Leyden, and graduated M.D. in 1799. He passed the winter in Edinburgh, and in 1800 settled at Stonehouse in Gloucestershire. Shortly after, however, at the request of Dr. Marshall, he consented to accompany him to Naples to introduce vaccination. He left England in June 1800, and, after visiting Malta and Naples, accompanied Sir Ralph Abercromby [q. v.] on his Egyptian expedition. Returning to London in 1802, Walker on 12 Aug. recommenced a course of public vaccination. The Jennerian Society was formed at the close of the year, and early in 1803 he was elected resident inoculator at the central house of the society in Salisbury Square. Dissensions, however, arose, occasioned in part by some differences in method between Walker and Jenner, and Walker in consequence resigned the post on 8 Aug. 1806. On 25 Aug. a new society, the London Vaccine Institution, was formed, in which Walker was appointed to an office similar to that which he had resigned, and continued to practise in Salisbury Court. After the establishment of the national vaccine board by the government, the Jennerian Society, which had fallen into bad circumstances, was amalgamated with the London Vaccine Institution in 1813, and Jenner was elected president of the new society, with Walker as director, an office which he held until his death. He was admitted a licentiate of the College of Physicians on 30 Sept. 1812. During the latter part of his life he laboured unceasingly in behalf of vaccination. He practised six days a week at the various stations of the society. Towards the end of his life he boasted that he had vaccinated more than a hundred thousand persons. He died in London on 23 June 1830. He was a man of great simplicity of character and directness of thought. He was a strong opponent of the slave trade, and made several attempts to call public attention to the abuses connected with suttee. He married at Glasgow on 23 Oct. 1799.

Besides the works mentioned, Walker was the author of: 1. 'On the Necessity for contracting Cavities between the Venous Trunks and the Ventricles of the Heart,' Edinburgh, 1799, 8vo. 2. 'Fragments of Letters and other Papers written in different parts of Europe and in the Mediterranean,' London, 1802, 8vo. He also translated from the French the 'Manual of the Theophilanthropes, or Adorers of God and Friends of Man,' London, 1797, 12mo, and compiled a small volume of 'Selections from Lucian,' 7th ed. Dublin, 1839, 12mo.

[Epps's Life of Walker, 1832; Munk's Coll. of Phys. iii. 106; Smith's Friends' Books.]

E. I. C.