Lives of the fellows

Benjamin Guy Babington

b.1794 d.8 April 1866
MD Cantab(1830) FRCP(1831) FRS

A son of Dr. William Babington, F.R.C.P, physician to Guy’s Hospital, B. G. Babington was educated at Charterhouse. He began his career as a midshipman in the Royal Navy. However, after serving at Walcheren and Copenhagen, he left the sea to study at Haileybury in preparation for the Indian Civil Service. In 1812 he was appointed to Madras, where he quickly won a reputation as an oriental scholar. Before he was twenty, he had published a translation of the Tamil-Latin grammar of C. J. Beschius, and he followed this with two further translations. But the effects of the Indian climate compelled him to return to England in 1819, and he decided to take up medicine as a career. Already a widower with a family, he studied at Guy’s Hospital and Cambridge, Graduating as M.D. in 1830. From 1837 to 1840 he was assistant physician at Guy’s, and from 1840 to 1855 full physician. He was also physician to the Deaf and Dumb Hospital.

Far from outstanding as a physician, Babington found scope for his remarkable intellectual powers in the study of organic chemistry, then in its infancy. He assisted Astley Cooper and Bright in investigating diseases of the kidney by analyses of the blood and urine. To the Medico-Chirurgical Transactions he contributed articles on the composition of the blood, and he wrote the article on Morbid Conditions of the Blood in the Cyclopaedia of Anatomy and Physiology. Cholera was a further subject of his researches. Impressed by the need for the study of epidemic disease, he founded the Epidemiological Society, of which he became president. In 1863 he was president of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society. At the Royal College of Physicians he was Censor and Croonian Lecturer (1841). For the Government, he acted as a member of the Medical Council of the General Board of Health and of commissions of enquiry. His talents as a linguist were not neglected. He translated Hecker’s Epidemics of the Middle Ages (1844) and edited Feuchtersleben’s Medical Psychology (1847). Outside the profession, Babington was not well known. He was unambitious and retiring, and his work was his only concern. He married a daughter of Benjamin Fayle and had three sons. He died at Hanover Square, London.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1866; Med.-Chir.Procs., 1867, N.S., v, 249; Wilks and Bettany, 235; D.N.B., ii, 311; Al.Cantab., I, 106]

(Volume IV, page 3)

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