b.16 Dec 1804 d.9 Nov 1886
MA MD Cantab FRCP(1838)
Born in London, Frederic John Farre was the son of John Richard Farre, M.D. As a boy, he attended Charterhouse – Thackeray mentions him as “Sampson major” in The Adventures of Philip – before winning a scholarship to St. John’s College, Cambridge. Having graduated as a wrangler in 1827, he received his medical training at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. With the latter, he remained in close association. He was made lecturer on botany in 1831, and on material medica in 1854, assistant physician in 1836, and physician in 1854. He relinquished this last appointment in 1870 but continued to lecture for another six years. As a teacher, he was straightforward and clear, although handicapped by deafness in later years. He was for many years physician to the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital, of which his father had been a founder, and to Charterhouse, and acted as an examiner for London University.
A second major interest in Farre’s life was his connection with the Royal College of Physicians. He was a Censor and Lecturer on Materia Medica (1843-45), and filled the offices of Treasurer from 1868 to 1883 and Vice-President in 1885. He wrote an (unpublished) history of the College which was stigmatised as inaccurate by Pitman, the Registrar, and by Munk, Harveian Librarian and author of the College Roll; a later Harveian Librarian, Chaplin, however praised Farre’s work. Farre was joint editor of the first British Pharmacopoeia (1864) and of an abridgement of Pereira’s Materia Medica (1866). In 1848 he married Julia Lewis, by whom he had two daughters. He was the brother of Arthur Farre, F.R.C.P. He died in Kensington.
G H Brown[References:Lancet, 1886;B.M.J., 1886;St. Bart.’s Hospital Reports, 1886, xxii, p.xxxiii;Moore, ii, 561;D.N.B, xviii, 230;Al. Cantab., ii, 463.]
[Farre (F.J.) see also extracts from the privately owned printed family history in correspondence with Mrs. Sparkman 92 FAR]
[Frederic John Farre, M.D. by W.S. Church, M.D. By the death of Dr. Frederic John Farre, one of the few remaining links which join the present staff of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital with a bygone generation of physicians and surgeons has been severed. The gravity of his presence and his somewhat formal though courteous manners insensibly recalled to his younger colleagues the traditional aspect of the eighteenth-century physicians, whilst in his learning and general tone of thought he resembled the older race of physicians rather than those of the present day.
Frederic John Farre was born in Charterhouse Square on December 16, 1804. The house in which his father resided at that time no longer exists, the alterations consequent on the formation of the new Charterhouse Street having necessitated great changes on the south side of the square. His father was Dr. John Richard Farre, who then was in large practice as a consulting physician; his name is, however, more familiar as a pathologist, and as the author of several-pathological essays, of which the best known are an Essay on Malformations of the Heart or its Arteries, published in 1814, and on the Morbid Anatomy of the Liver, dated the following year. Dr. J. R. Farre was decidedly in advance of the age as a pathologist, and not only collected a considerable sized museum of specimens, but endeavoured in a variety of ways to promote the study of pathology and establish it as a distinct branch which from time to time during the summer session he used to conduct.
It is not a little remarkable, as showing the interest he took in botanical science, to find that though he never became a Fellow or member of any of the medical societies of London, he early in life joined the Medico-Botanical Society, the Linnean, the Botanical Society of Edinburgh, and was one of the original members of the Council of the Royal Botanical Society of London.
In 1833 Farre entered the profession through a portal which has long ceased to exist, taking the degree of Licentiate of Medicine at Cambridge. Why he took this degree rather than that of Bachelor of Medicine does not appear, but I suppose that as a Master of Arts, he could not present himself for the examination for a Bachelor’s degree. At all events, by this now obsolete portal he entered the profession, and it was his sole qualification when, on July 23, 1836, he was appointed Assistant-Physician to the Hospital. The following year he took the degree of Doctor of Medicine at Cambridge, and in 1838 became a Fellow of the College of Physicians. Farre’s appointment in the Hospital was not due to any vacancy occurring. The out-patient department, which had been established in 1834 under Dr. (now Sir George) Burrows, had increased so rapidly that one Physician was unable to keep abreast of the work, and the Treasurer and Governors very wisely determined to add to the staff. Farre and the late Dr. Jeaffreson were appointed at the same time, so that each Assistant-Physician saw out-patients on two days in the week; the number of Assistant-Physicians was thus made equal to that of the Physicians.
In 1839 the Royal Botanical Society of London was incorporated, and Farre took great interest in, and materially assisted its foundation. I am informed by Mr. Sowerby (the Secretary) that his father, Dr. Farre, and his friend Dr. Sigmond laid out that portion of the grounds which is devoted to the illustration of the ‘Natural Orders,’ and that great pains were taken by them to arrange the orders in such groups as would facilitate the labours of students engaged in the scientific study of botany, and that the plan differs somewhat from that usually adopted in similar gardens, the plants being arranged in curved groups and masses, and not simply in lines or rows.
At this time his scientific tastes led him to join the Microscopical Society, which was formed in the same year.
Thus at a comparatively early age he held a good position both in the professional and scientific life of London, and greater success might have been expected for him than he attained in later life; but just as his University career hardly came up to the expectation of his friends, so that latter part of his professional life hardly equalled the promise of the earlier years. Much good and laborious work he did, but it was not of a kind to bring him prominently before the world. (I shall hereafter allude to his long and honourable connection with the College of Physicians.)
In the year 1843 Farre became Physician to the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital, an appointment which gave him much pleasure, as the foundation of that institution had been mainly due to his father and his father’s friend Mr. J. Cunningham Saunders. As Physician and Consulting Physician he retained his connection with this institution until his death.
Five years later he married Miss Julia F. Lewis, who with two daughters survive him. At this time he moved from New Bridge Street, Blackfriars, into a house in Montague Street, Russell Square, where he remained for many years.
About this time he became medical examiner to the Rock Life Office, a post he held till his death. Insurance work had an attraction for him, and at various times he held similar appointments in connection with several other assurance offices.
In 1849 Farre delivered the customary introductory address to the students at the commencement of the winter session, and chose “Self-Culture, and the Principles to be Observed in the Study of Medicine,” as his subject. By a somewhat curious coincidence his brother, Dr. Arthur Farre, delivered on the same day the introductory address at King’s College.
After eighteen years’ service as Assistant, Farre became, in 1854, Physician to the Hospital, the Governors having decided to increase the senior staff from three to four both on the medical and surgical sides. The same year, on the death of Dr. Roupell, he became Lecturer on Materia Medica and resigned the Botanical lectureship; in the latter he was succeeded by Dr. Kirkes. His resignation was marked by an act of characteristic generosity, as he presented to the Governors of the Hospital, on trust for the medical school, the whole of his museum of botany, consisting of between ten and twelve thousand specimens, and comprising (1) an herbarium, mounted; (2) a collection of dried fruits and seeds; (3) fruits, &c., contained in bottles, and specimens of wood; (4) diagrams.
For many years he had been qualifying himself for this important post, studying the properties and actions of the drugs derived from the vegetable kingdom as well as the classificatory and descriptive side of botany. As early as the year 1843 he had obtained leave of the College of Physicians to deliver a lecture within the College on the Materia Medica, and the same permission was granted him on the two following years. He had also taken an active part in the preparation of the last London Pharmacopoeia, and had acted as chairman of the College Committee instructed with its preparation. He held this lectureship for twenty-two years, and many generations of students can bear witness to the earnestness and thoroughness with which he taught this subject. When in 1870, after thirty-four years’ work in the out-patient rooms and wards, the limit of age imposed by our Governors was reached, and he had to retire from the office of Physician, Farre was requested by his colleagues to continue his lectureship; this request he assented to, on the condition that Dr. Lauder Brunton was associated with him. With that candour and straightforwardness which was the distinguishing character of his life, he recognised that the development of the subject and the methods of investigation and instruction necessary for the proper teaching of this branch of study were not familiar to him, and that he needed assistance. Experimental physiology and the investigation of the effect of drugs upon the lower animals had never formed any portion of his studies, and this he honestly acknowledged. It must not, however, be supposed that Farre did not keep himself abreast of the times, for we find that in 1864, after the publication by the London Committee of the General Medical Council to watch the progress of pharmaceutical knowledge, with a view to a supplement or new edition of the Pharmacopoeia; and for five years, from 1863 to 1868, he was Examiner in Materia Meidca in the London University.
In addition to his Hospital lectures, Farre undertook, in conjunction with Messrs. Bentley and Warrington, to bring out an abridgment of Pereira’s work on Materia Medica adapted to the nomenclature and formulae of the British Pharmacopoeia; this was completed and published in 1865, and, excepting a short paper in the second volume of our Hospital Reports, was, I believe, his only contribution to medical literature.
Any account of Farre’s life would be very incomplete which did not allude to his long and honourable connection with the College of Physicians. Becoming early in life a Fellow of the College, his first term of office as Censor was forty-five years ago; he then held the post for two years, and was again Censor in 1854. He served the College also as Councillor and Examiner on several occasions, and in 1868 he was elected Treasurer; he held this important post for fifteen years, and most ably performed its duties. I am informed that the neatness and precision with which the accounts were kept and the papers filed could not have been surpassed by the most methodical of business men; in fact, extreme accuracy with regard to minute details, especially when connected with money, was one of his hobbies, as more than one Treasurer of our school could testify. In 1884, the year after he resigned the Treasurership, he was elected one of the first Vice-Presidents, upon the creation of that office in the College. Farre’s love for the College led him to devote much labour and time to the study of its history and growth. His researches in this direction he embodied in three manuscript volumes which he presented to the College, together with an album containing copies of old maps of London, showing the sites of the two earlier Colleges, several interesting ground-plans of the first and second College buildings, and copies of old engravings giving views of their elevations. This work was with him a labour of love, and he spared no pains to render it as complete as possible.
Farre enjoyed throughout his long life good health, and retained his vigour till his final illness, which commenced in September of the present year. He then had an attack of pleurisy, from which he seemed to be recovering, when unfortunately his wife became so seriously ill that her life was despaired of. During her illness he remained much in her room and walked about as if he was and had been perfectly well; but as she recovered, his strength declined, and he became gradually weaker and weaker, and died on the 10th of November.
I have in the preceding pages endeavoured to give an outline of Farre’s public life; of his home and inner life I am not qualified to speak. Few of those who had but a slight acquaintance with him were aware of the kindness of heart that lay beneath his formal and somewhat rugged manner. Though naturally reserved and unsympathetic, no trace of selfishness was in him; and Dr. Lauder Brunton, writing of his final illness, says, “One thing which much struck me while attending him was his kindliness and unselfish endeavours to be cheery and appear well in spite of his weakness and illness.” From boyhood to old age he was ever guided by the highest motives, and though he cannot be said to have attained marked professional success, he has left behind him the example of a well-spent and thoroughly honourable life.]
(Volume IV, page 18)
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