Lives of the fellows

Thomas Denman

b.27 June 1733 d.26 November 1815
MD LRCP(1783)

Thomas Denman, M.D., was born at Bakewell, co. Derby, 27th June, 1733, and was educated at the grammar-school of that town. He was the second son of Mr. John Denman, a respectable apothecary, who died in 1752, when our future physician for some time assisted his elder brother, who succeeded to the business. In his twenty-first year he came to London, and attended two courses of lectures on anatomy, and the practice of St. George’s hospital. He then procured the appointment of surgeon’s mate in the navy. In 1757 he was made surgeon through the interest of the dowager duchess of Devonshire, and, after a cruise of seventeen months off the coast of Africa, was appointed to the Edgar, a new ship of sixty guns, commanded by captain (afterwards admiral) Drake, with whom he continued until the conclusion of peace in 1763, when he left the service. Repairing to London, he renewed his studies, and attended Dr. Smellie’s lectures on midwifery. He was created doctor of medicine by the university of Aberdeen 13th July, 1764, and then endeavoured to establish himself as a physician at Winchester. This attempt proving unsuccessful, he returned to London, but his prospects were so little flattering, that he actually made an attempt to resume his situation as surgeon in the navy. Fortunately for his future career he was unable to procure a warrant. Under these circumstances, the surgeoncy to one of the royal yachts, which he obtained through the influence of lord George Cavendish, and the friendly recommendation of his former commander, captain Drake, bringing him a salary of seventy pounds per annum, without materially affecting his London practice, afforded him an important addition to his small income. About this period he commenced lecturing on midwifery, in conjunction with Dr. Osborne. These lectures, which were continued for fifteen years, gave him a high reputation; and on the 5th October, 1769, he was appointed physician-accoucheur to the Middlesex hospital. Dr. Denman’s progress as a practitioner was at first, however, slow. Dr. William Hunter then occupied the first place as accoucheur at the west end of the town, and Dr. Ford was in the enjoyment of an extensive and lucrative practice. On their removal Dr. Denman made rapid progress; he soon attained to the summit of his department of the profession, and maintained his position with a firmness of which there have been but few examples. In 1783 his private engagements had become so numerous that he was compelled to resign his office at the Middlesex hospital. He was admitted by the College of Physicians a Licentiate in Midwifery 22nd December, 1783. (1) In 1791 Dr. Denman purchased a house at Feltham, near Hounslow, and withdrew from the more harassing and laborious part of his practice, but he never quitted it entirely. He limited himself to consultations, and in that capacity was much esteemed and much resorted to. He died at his house in Mount-street, Grosvenor-square, 26th November, 1815, aged eighty-two, and was buried at St. James’s, Piccadilly, where there is the following simple inscription:—
Thomas Denman, M.D.,
born June 27, 1733, died Nov. 26, 1815.
Elizabeth his wife
born Jany. 23, 1746, died Jany. 19, 1833.

"To a well-cultivated mind and sound judgment, aided by experience and enriched by reading the best authors, Dr. Denman added the more pleasing qualities of mildness, amenity of manners, patience, and unremitting attention to his profession. He was of a cheerful disposition and peculiar simplicity of manners, remarkably temperate and regular in his habits of life, humble and unassuming in his deportment. To the poor he was ever attentive and a kind benefactor; not only privately relieving them and giving them advice, but also an active promoter of public charities. In the private circles of domestic life and the bosom of his family, he was always amiable and entertaining, and from his reading, experience, and having been much in the highest circles he was full of anecdote. But the best trait in the character of this excellent man was his religious principle; he not only had a firm belief in religion, but he adorned it by his practice, uniformly showing it by his life." (2) By his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Mr. Alexander Brodie, he left one son, Thomas, who became lord chief justice of England, and a peer of the realm; and two daughters, one married to Matthew Baillie, M.D., and the other to Sir Richard Croft, M.D. Dr. Denman’s portrait by L. F. Abbot was engraved by Skelton in 1792. From Dr. Denman’s pen we have—

A Letter on the Construction and Use of Vapour Baths. 8vo. Lond. 1768.
Essays on the Puerperal Fever, and on Puerperal Convulsions. 8vo. Lond. 1768.
Aphorisms on the Applicalion and Use of the Forceps and Vectis in Preternatural Labours, or Labours attended with Hemorrhage or Convulsions. 18mo. Lond. 1783.
An Essay on Uterine Hemorrhages depending on Pregnancy and Parturition. 8vo. Lond. 1786.
An Essay on Preternatural Labours. 8vo. Lond. 1786.
An Essay on Natural Labours. 8vo. Lond. 1786.
A Collection of Engravings tending to illustrate the Generation and Parturition of Animals, and of the Human Species. 4to. Lond. 1787.
An Introduction to the Practice of Midwifery. 8vo. Lond.
Plates of Polypi of the Uterus. 4to. Lond. 1800.
Observations on Rupture of the Uterus, on the Snuffles in Infants, and on Mania Lactea. 8vo. Lond. 1810.
Observations on the Cure of Cancers. 8vo. Lond. 1810.

William Munk

[(1) " 1783, Octr. 6. The College having taken into consideration the Practice of Midwifery resolved that Licences be granted to Practitioners in Midwifery." Annals, vol. xv, p. 35.
(2) Gent.Mag., for 1815, vol. lxxxv, part ii, p. 567]

(Volume II, page 333)

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