Lives of the fellows

Charles Giles Bridle Daubeny

b.11 February 1795 d.13 December 1867
AB Oxon(1814) AM(1817) MB(1818) MD(1821) FRCP(1822)

Charles Giles Bridle Daubeny, M.D., was the son of the Rev. James Daubeny, rector of Stratton, Gloucestershire, by his wife Helena, daughter of Andrew Daubeny, esq., of Bristol, and was born at Stratton, 11th February, 1795. He was educated at Winchester, and in 1810 was elected a demy of Magdalen college, Oxford, of which house he subsequently became a fellow. He proceeded A.B. 1st June, 1814, and in the following year gained the chancellor’s prize for the Latin essay, and was A.M. 5th March, 1817. Being destined for the profession of physic, he applied himself to its study in London and Edinburgh for the three years 1815 to 1818. He graduated M.B. at Oxford 19th November, 1818, and M.D. 15th January,1821.

He was admitted a Candidate of the College of Physicians 1st October, 1821, a Fellow 30th Sep-tember, 1822; and he delivered the Harveian oration of 1845. Dr. Daubeny settled at Oxford. He was appointed professor of chemistry there in 1822, Sherar-dian professor of botany, 1834, and professor of rural economy in 1840. He was elected physician to the Radcliffe infirmary in 1826, but resigned his appointment there in 1830, about which time he withdrew from the actual practice of physic, which, to use his own words, was suited neither to his tastes nor habits,(1) and devoted himself exclusively to science and literature.

At a very early period of Dr. Daubeny’s career his attention had been attracted to geology and mineralogy by the teaching of Dr. Kidd, at Oxford. His interest in this subject was increased by the lectures of professor Jameson, of Edinburgh. The fight was then raging in modern Athens between Plutonists and Nep-tunists, Huttonians and Wernerians, and the possession of Arthur’s seat and Salisbury craig was sternly debated by the rival worshippers of fire and water. Daubeny entered keenly into this discussion, and after quitting the university of Edinburgh, proceeded in 1819 on a leisurely tour through France, everywhere collecting evidence on the geological and chemical history of the globe, and sent to professor Jameson from Auvergne the earliest notices which had appeared in England of that remarkable volcanic region.

From the beginning to the end of his scientific career volcanic phenomena occupied the attention of Dr. Daubeny, and he strove by frequent journeys through Italy, Sicily, France and Germany, Hungary and Transylvania, to extend his knowledge of that interesting subject. In 1825 he had by this means prepared the basis of his great work on volcanoes, which appeared in 1826, and contained careful descriptions of all the regions known to be visited by igneous eruptions, and a consistent hypothesis of the cause of the thermic disturbance, in accordance with the view first proposed by Gay-Lussac and Davy.

From the time of Dr. Daubeny’s appointment to the chair of botany at Oxford and his residence at the "physic garden" there, he occupied himself in experiments and observations on some of the most interesting and recondite matters connected with vegetation— on the effects, for instance, of light on plants and of plants on light ; on the distribution of potash and phosphates in leaves and fruits ; on the conservability of seeds ; on the ozonic element of the atmosphere ; and on the effect of varied proportions of carbonic acid on plants analogous to those of the coal measures. These last-mentioned experiments are among the very few which can be referred to as throwing light on the curious question, whether the amazing abundance of vegetable life in the carboniferous ages of the world may not have been specially favoured by the presence in the palæozoic atmosphere of a larger proportion of carbonic acid gas than is found at present.

In his position as a teacher of botany he took pleasure in drawing attention to the historical aspects of his subject, and specially as a part of his duty treated of rural economy both in its literary and practical bearings. Hence arose the "Lectures on Roman Husbandry," written in a style creditable to the classical training of his early years, and containing a full account of the most important passages of Latin authors bearing on crops and culture, the treatment of domestic animals, and horti- culture. To this he added an interesting catalogue of the plants mentioned by Dioscorides, arranged in the modern natural orders. This was followed after a few years by a valuable essay on the Trees and Shrubs of the Ancients, and a catalogue of Trees and Shrubs indigenous in Greece and Italy.

For some winters before his death Dr. Daubeny found it necessary to exchange his residence in Oxford for the milder climate of Torquay. After patiently enduring severe illness for a few weeks, he sunk to that rest which, often in his thoughts, had ever been expected with the calmness of the philosopher and the hopefulness of the Christian. He died on the 13th December, 1867, aged seventy-two.

His remains were deposited in a vault adjoining the walls of Magdalen college chapel, in accordance with his own expressed wish, "that he might not be separated in death from a society with which he had been connected for the greater part of his life, and to which he was so deeply indebted, not only for the kind countenance and support ever afforded him, but also for supplying him with the means of indulging in a career of life at once so congenial to his taste and the best calculated to render him a useful member of the community."

"Any one accustomed to a considerable degree of intimacy with Dr. Daubeny would be able to declare that he never met with any man more entirely truthful and just-minded. One might absolutely rely upon him in regard of deeds, thoughts, and motives. To convince his judgment was to enlist his sympathy and secure his active help; to be censured with over-much strictness was a passport to such protection as he could honestly give. An earnestness of spirit was manifested in all his academic life. No project of change, no scheme of improvement in university examinations, no modification in the system of his own college, ever found him indifferent, prejudiced, or unprepared. On almost every such question his opinion was formed with rare impartiality and expressed with as rare intrepidity. Firm and gentle, prudent and generous, cheerful and sympathetic, pursuing no private ends, calm amidst jarring creeds and contending parties, the personal influence of such a man on his contemporaries for half a century of active and thoughtful life fully matched the effect of his published works."(2)

Dr. Daubeny was the author of—
A Description of Active and Extinct Volcanoes, of Earthquakes, and of Thermal Springs, with Remarks on their Causes, Products, and Influence on the Condition of the Globe. 8vo. Lond. 1826.
Tabular View of Volcanic Phenomena. Fol. Lond. 1828.
An Introduction to the Atomic Theory. 8vo. Lond. 1831.
Notes of a Tour in North America (privately printed). 8vo. 1838.
Supplement to the Introduction to the Atomic Theory. 8vo. 1840.
Brief Remarks on the Correlation of the Natural Sciences. 8vo. Oxford, 1848.
Lecture on the Importance of the Study of Chemistry. 8vo. Lond. 1854.
Lectures on Roman Husbandry, comprehending such an Account of the System of Agriculture, the Treatment of Domestic Animals, the Horticulture, &c., pursued in ancient times, as may be collected from the Scriptores Rei Rusticæ, the Georgies of Virgil, and other classical authorities, with Notices of the Plants mentioned in Columella and Virgil. 8vo. Oxford and London, 1857.
Climate; an Inquiry into the Causes of its Differences, and into its Influence on Vegetable Life. 8vo. Lond. 1863.
Essay on the Trees and Shrubs of the Ancients, intended to be Supplementary to the Lectures on Roman Husbandry. 8vo. Oxford and London, 1865.
A Popular Guide to the Botanic Garden of Oxford, and to the Fielding Herbarium annexed to it. Oxford.
Miscellanies; being a Collection of Memoirs and Essays on Scientific and Literary Subjects published at various times. 2 vols. 8vo. Oxford and London, 1867.

William Munk

[(1) Miscellanies: being a Collection of Memoirs and Essays, &c., by C. Daubeny, M.D., F.R.S. 2 vols. 8v0. Oxford and London. 1967. Vol. i, p. 18.
(2) Proceedings of the Royal Soc. Of London, vol. xvii, p. 74, et seq.]

(Volume III, page 254)

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