Lives of the fellows

Richard Fowler

b.28 November 1765 d.13 April 1863
MD Edin(1793) LRCP(1796) FRS(1802)

Richard Fowler, M.D.—This venerable physician who attained a greater age than has any other member of the College from its foundation to the present time, was born in London, 28th November, 1765. At an early age he was so feeble in health that it was thought necessary to send him to reside with a relation in Staffordshire. His education, general and medical, was obtained at Edinburgh, from which he went to Paris, "at a time when Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the Dauphine were yet to be seen in their regal state; and Dr. Fowler was fond of telling how he saw them thus, and also of having exchanged greetings with Talleyrand while yet the young and courtly bishop of Autun. He remained long enough in Paris to witness much of the strife of the first French revolution. He was personally acquainted with Mirabeau, and often listened to his eloquence in the National Assembly." He returned to Edinburgh in 1790, applied himself to the further study of science, particularly galvanism, and of medicine, and on the 12th September, 1793, graduated doctor of medicine there (D.M.I. de Inflammatione). He was admitted a Licentiate of the College of Physicians of London 21st March, 1796, and settling at Salisbury, was at once elected physician to the infirmary of that city, which institution he served in that capacity until 1841, a period of forty-five years, and as consulting physician up to his death in 1863, a further period of twenty-two years, making together sixty-seven years of service to the infirmary. Dr. Fowler was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society in 1802, and in 1805 married a daughter of William Bowles, esq., of Heale house. " He had an extensive medical practice during many years, and a still more extensive acquaintance with the leading men of the day, for which he was partly indebted to his early friendship with the marquis of Lansdowne and lord Holland, but also to his own social qualities and conversational powers, the latter being enlivened by anecdote, apt quotation, and varied knowledge, which enabled him to say something agreeably and well on almost every subject; at the same time his kindly nature mellowed and improved everything he said and did." Doctor Fowler enjoyed unwonted health of body and mind to a very late period of his prolonged existence. Originally of feeble power, he braced himself by the abundant use of cold water and by accustoming himself habitually to degrees of cold in his sleeping and dwelling rooms which the majority of persons could not endure, and from which all would shrink in this age of luxury and effeminacy.(1) In 1859, when in his ninety-fourth year, Dr. Fowler made the journey from Salisbury to Aberdeen, to attend the meeting of the British Association, in the work of which he had long been interested. During the later years of his life Dr. Fowler was afflicted with loss of sight; nevertheless his mental activity was so great, that when he could no longer see to read, he kept employed two men and two boys in reading to him and writing down memoranda from his dictation. One of his latest acts, in conjunction with Mrs. Fowler, was to purchase and endow a suitable home for the Salisbury and South Wiltshire museum, in which he took a great interest, and bestowed on it a large portion of his books and collections. He died at his residence, Milford, near Salisbury, 13th April, 1863, in the ninety-eighth year of his age. We have from his pen—
Experiments and Observations on Animal Electricity. 8vo. Edinb. 1793.
Observations on the Mental State of the Blind, and Deaf and Dumb. 12mo. Salisbury. 1843.

William Munk

[(1) Carlyon’s Precepts for the Preservation of Health, Life, and Happiness. 8vo. Lond. 1859. p. 74]

(Volume II, page 447)

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