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April 3, 1972

Thomas Beddoes or, Medicine and Social Conscience

JAMA. 1972;220(1):50-53. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200010036005

In a remarkable piece of scholarly detection In Search of Swift, Mr. Denis Johnston refers to an opinion expressed in 1807 by "a certain Dr. Beddoes." As an historian of letters Mr. Johnston might have suspected that he was speaking of the father of Thomas Lovell Beddoes, the poet. Had he done so, he might have found that the subject of his dismissive phrase was also the great-grandfather of Gerard Manley Hopkins, another poet; and perhaps our critic might have gone on to catch a glimpse of a remarkable figure in the history of science and medicine.

But it must be admitted that the elder Beddoes is not easy to get at. His works are in few libraries. The Dictionary of National Biography is cool about him, and the recent Dictionary of Scientific Biography, though more sympathetic, adopts the dying Beddoes' own view that he had wasted his talents by