Lives of the fellows

John Freind

b.1675 d.26 July 1728
AB OxoN(1698) AM(1701) MB(1703) MD(1707) FRS(1712) FRCP(1716)

John Freind, M.D., was the third son of the Rev. William Freind, A.M., rector of Croughton, Northamptonshire, and was bom there in 1675. He was educated at Westminster, under Dr. Busby; and in 1694 was elected thence to Christ Church, Oxford, of which Dr. Aldrich was then the dean. Freind’s attainments as a classical scholar were already so distinguished that, in conjunction with Mr. Foulkes, he undertook, under the auspices of Dr. Aldrich, to give a new edition, with Latin notes and translation, of two Greek orations, the one of Æschines, the other of Demosthenes. They appeared in 1696, under the title of “ Æschinis contra Ctesiphontem et Demosthenis de Corona Orationes. Interpretationem Latinam et vocum difficiliorum explicationem adjecerunt P. Foulkes et Io. Freind, Ædis Christi alumni.” About the same time, Freind undertook the revision of the edition of Ovid’s “ Metamorphoses,” which had been prepared for the use of the Dauphin. He took the degree of A.B. 4th June, 1698 ; of A.M. 12th April, 1701. From the date of his first degree in arts, he applied sedulously to the study of physic; and in 1699 addressed to Sir (then Dr.) Hans Sloane a letter on hydrocephalus, which was published in the twenty-first volume of the “Philosophical Transactions.” In 1701 he wrote another letter, in Latin, to the same distinguished physician, “ de Spasmi Rarioris Historià,” giving an account of some extraordinary cases of convulsion occurring in Oxfordshire, which made at that time a very great noise, and would probably have been magnified into something supernatural had not the writer taken the pains to set them in their true light. Freind proceeded bachelor of medicine 1st June, 1703; and the same year gave a solid proof of his professional and classical attainments, by the publication of his “ Emmenologia, in qua Fluxus Muliebris menstrui Phenomena, Periodi, Vitia, cum medendi Methodo, ad Rationes mechanicas exiguntur.” 8vo. This work, as its title implies, is based on the mechanical doctrines then so much in vogue; and though at first it met with some opposition, and was then and afterwards animadverted upon by various writers, has always been regarded as a masterly essay. “ It is,” says one authority, “ admirable for the beauty of its style, the elegant disposition of its parts, its wonderful succinctness and perspicuity, and for the happy concurrence of learning and penetration visible through the whole.” In the following year (1704) Freind was appointed reader on chemistry at Oxford, and in the performance of the duties of that office he delivered the course of lectures which were published in 1720, under the title of “ Prælectiones Chymicæ: in quibus omnes fere Operationes Chemicæ ad Vera Principia et ipsius Naturæ Leges rediguntur, Anno 1704, Oxonii in Museo Ashmoleano habitæ.” In these lectures Freind applied with great judgment Newton’s then recently established laws of nature to the explanation and elucidation of chemistry. By the size, shape, surface, specific gravity, and attraction of the component atoms of bodies, and the influence of the magnetic and electric forces upon them, he explained all chemical processes and operations, and by so doing simplified to its fullest extent what had hitherto been in the highest degree obscure and perplexed. In the words of Sir Henry Halford, (1) “ huic viro laudi fuit, illam attractionis vim quam in grandiore corporum coelestium mole perspexerat Newtonus, summo cum judicio rebus Chemicis accommodàsse et quicquid in theorià perplexum olim erat et obscurum legibus New-tonianis simplicissimé expediisse.” In 1705 Freind accompanied lord Peterborough on his Spanish expedition, in the capacity of physician to the army, in which post he continued for about two years. He then made a tour of Italy, and spent some time at Rome. On his return to England, in 1707, finding the character of lord Peterborough assailed, he published a defence of him, entitled “ An Account of the Earl of Peterborough’s Conduct in Spain, chiefly since the raising the Siege of Barcelona,” 1706; to which is added, “The Campaign of Valencia, with original papers.” 8vo. 1707. On the 12th June, 1707, Freind was created doctor of medicine at Oxford, by diploma; in 1712 he was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society, and the same year attended the duke of Ormond into Flanders, as his physician.

Settling in London on his return, he was admitted a Candidate of the College of Physicians 30th September, 1713, and a Fellow 9th April, 1716. He delivered the Gulstonian Lectures in 1718, the Harveian Oration in 1720, and was Censor in 1718, 1719. In 1717 Dr. Freind published the First and Third Books of Hippocrates, De Morbis Popularibus, with nine Commentaries on Fever. This work was attacked by Dr. Woodward, the Gresham professor of physic, in his “ State of Physic and of Diseases,” 8vo. Lond. 1718; and here was laid the foundation of a dispute which was carried on with great acrimony and violence on both sides. Parties were formed under these leaders, and several pamphlets were written. Freind supported his opinion “concerning the advantage of purging in the second fever of the confluent small-pox”—for it was on this single point that the dispute chiefly turned—in a Latin letter addressed to Dr. Mead in 1719, and since printed among his works. He was likewise supposed to be the author of a pamphlet entitled “ A Letter to the learned Dr. Woodward, by Dr. Byfield,” wherein Woodward is rallied with great spirit and address—for Freind made no serious answer to Woodward’s book, but contented himself with ridiculing his antagonist under the name of a celebrated empiric.

In 1722 Dr. Freind was elected a member of parliament for Launceston, and in that capacity distinguished himself by some able speeches in the House of Commons, against measures of which he disapproved. He was a staunch Tory, and the intimate friend of bishop Atterbury. He attended that prelate in the Tower as his physician, and was suspected of participation in the so-called “ bishops’ plot.” These various circumstances drew upon him so much resentment that, the Habeas Corpus Act being at that time suspended, he was, in March, 1722-3, after an examination before a committee of the Privy Council, committed a close prisoner to the Tower. He continued a prisoner until 21st June, when, owing to the firmness and determination of Dr. Mead, who refused to prescribe for Sir Robert Walpole, the minister of the day, until he was liberated, Freind was admitted to bail. His sureties were Dr. Mead, Dr. Hulse, Dr. Levett, and Dr. Hale. In November he was discharged from his recognizance. (2)

The leisure afforded him by his confinement in the Tower, he employed in a manner suitable to his abilities and profession. It was during this period that he wrote the celebrated and elegant letter to Dr. Mead, “ De quibusdam Variolarum Generibus Epistola,” published in 4to. in 1723. There also he laid the plan of his last, elaborate, and most learned work, “ The History of Physick from the time of Galen to the beginning of the xvjth century, chiefly with regard to practice, in a Discourse written to Dr. Mead.” The first part appeared in 1725; the second in 1726. Soon after Freind obtained his liberty, he was appointed physician to the prince of Wales; and on that prince’s accession to the throne he became physician to queen Caroline. Early in the year 1727-8, Atterbury addressed to Dr. Freind his celebrated “ Letter on the character of lapis,” of whom the bishop considered this learned physician to be the modern prototype. In 1725 the College of Physicians petitioned the House of Commons against the pernicious and growing use of spirituous liquors among persons of all ranks and of both sexes, and they confided the presentation of the petition to Dr. Freind, one of their own fellows, and then a member of the House. (3) Dr. Freind died 26th July, 1728, in the fifty-second year of his age, (4) and was buried at Hitcham, co. Berks, the manor of which had been purchased by him in 1700. On a slab within the communion rails is the following inscription :—

H. J.
Johannes Freind M.D.
Serenissimœ Reginae Carolinœ Archiatrus
et hujus Manerii Dominus Obiit 26 Julii 1728 set: 52.

Dr. Freind had married in 1720 Anne, the eldest daughter of Thomas Morice, esq., then paymaster of the forces in Portugal, by whom he had an only son, John, who died unmarried in 1750. The doctor’s relict died in 1737, and was buried at Hitcham, near her husband.

A monument to Dr. Freind’s memory, with the following inscription, was erected in Westminster abbey:
Johannes Freind, M.D.
Archiater
Serenissimœ Reginœ Carolinœ;
cujus perspicaci judicio cum se approbasset,
quanta prius apud omnes Medicinœ fama,
tanta apud Regiam Familiam gratia floruit.
Ingenio erat benevolo et admodum liberali,
societatis et convictuum amans,
amicitiarum (etiam suo alicubi periculo) tenacissimus.
Nemo beneficia aut in alios alacrius contulit,
aut in se collata libentius meminit.
Juvenis adhuc scriptis coepit inclarescere,
et assiduo tum Latini tum Patrii sermonis usu
orationem perpolivit;
quam vero in umbraculis excoluerat facundiam,
eam in solem atque aciem Senator protulit.
Humanioribus literis domi peregréque operam dedit;
omnes autem, ut decuit, nervos intendit
sua in arte ut esset versatissimus:
quo successu, Orbis Britannici cives et proceres,
quam multiplici scientia, viri omnium gentium eruditi;
quam indefesso studio et industria,
id quidem, non sine lacrymis amici loquentur.
Miri quiddam fuit, quod in tam continua occupatione,
inter tot circuitiones,
scribendo etiam vacare posset:
quod tanto oneri diutius sustinendo impar esset,
nihil miri.
Obiit siquidem, vigente adhuc œtate,
annum agens quinquagesimum secundum,
œt. Christi 1728, Jul. 26;
Collegii Westmonasteriensis
et aedis Christi Oxoniensis Alumnus;
Collegii Medicorum Londinensium
et Societatis Regiae Socius.

A good portrait of Dr. Freind by Dahl is in the Col-lege dining-room. It was bequeathed to the College by Matthew Lee, M.D., to be mentioned hereafter, and in the old college in Warwick-lane, had the following inscription appended to it: —“ Joh. Freind, M.D., Oxon: hujus Collegii quondam socii quam cernis imaginem legavit moriens Matt. Lee, M.D., Oxon, et hujus Collegii socius, A.D. 1755.”(5) Another, and finer portrait of Dr. Freind than the one just mentioned, is in the possession of George Owen Rees, M.D., of Albe-marle-street.

There is, too, in the Censor’s room, a spirited medallion of Dr. Freind, carved in boxwood. It was presented to the College by Dr. Diamond, and had formerly belonged to Sir George L. Tuthill, M.D., a Fellow of our College, which is all that is known concerning it. Beside these, there is extant a finely executed medal of Dr. Freind, with the doctor’s bust on the obverse, inscribed “ Joannes Freind, Coll. Med. Lond. et Reg. S.S,” and on the neck the initial letters of the artist’s name, S. V. (Saint Urbain). Reverse, an ancient and modern physician joining hands. “ Medicina vetus et nova. Exergue, Unam facimus utramque.”

The doctor’s valuable library was sold at auction by Mr. Cock, in January, 1728-9.

William Munk

[(1) Oratio ex Harveii instituto habita die Octob. 18,1800.
(2) “When Sir Robert Walpole, the minister of the day, sent to consult Mead on account of an indisposition, he availed himself of the occasion to plead the cause of the captive. He urged that though the warmth and freedom of Freind might have betrayed him into some intemperate observations, yet no one could doubt his patriotic feelings and loyalty, that his public services had been great, for he had attended the earl of Peterborough in his Spanish expedition as an army physician, and had also accompanied in the same capacity the duke of Ormond into Flanders; that he deserved well of science, for he had done much to call the attention of the world to the new and sound principles of the Newtonian philosophy: and was besides a man of excellent parts, a thorough scholar, and one whom all acknowledged to be very able in his profession—and finally, the doctor refused to prescribe for the minister unless the prisoner was set at liberty. He was almost immediately relieved from prison and admitted to bail.” The Gold Headed Cane, 2nd edition. 8vo. Lond. 1828, p. 79.
(3) 1725. Dec. 22. Order’d that a Committee of College Officers be appointed to review a Representation to be offered to the House of Commons against the pernicious use of strong spirituous liquors.
The Petition was as follows:—
To the Honourable the House of Commons.
The humble Representation of the College of Physicians in
London.
We, the President and College or Commonality of the Faculty of Physick in London who are appointed by the laws of the kingdom to take care of the health of his Majestie’s subjects in London and within seven miles circuit of the same, do think it our duty most humbly to represent that we have with concern observed, for some years past, the fatal effects of the frequent use of several sorts of distilled Spirituous Liquors upon great numbers of both sexes, rendering them diseas’d, not fit for business, poor, a burthen to themselves and neighbours, and too often the cause of weak, feeble, and distemper’d Children, who must be, instead of an advantage and strength, a charge to their Country.
We crave leave further most humbly to represent that this Custom doth every year increase, notwithstanding our repeated Advices to the contrary. We therefore most humbly submit to the consideration of Parliament, so great and growing an evil. In testimony thereof, We have this nineteenth day of January, 1725, caus’d our Common Seal to be affixed to this our Representation. Comitiis Maj: Extraord. 19 Januarii 1725 habitis. The Represen-tation of the College against the frequent use of strong Spirituous Liquors was read and approved, and the College Seal was thereto affixed, and Dr. Freind was desired by the College to take an oppor-tunity of presenting it to the House of Commons, which he (being a member) promised to do.
(4) Dr. Freind’s colleagues in the College have celebrated his praises in many of the Harveian Orations, but in none of them with equal felicity and elegance as in that by a kindred spirit, Sir George Baker. “ His,” says he, “ accensere licebit medicum ad-prime eruditum, Oxonii sui delicias et decus, Joannem Freind. Cujus quidem viri quoties inspicere lubet in indolem, et labores, et studia, annon exemplum, in illustri positum monumento, intuemur, qualem oporteat esse medicum, qui affectet aliquod ultra mediocre et quotidianum? Fuit illi ingenium acre et excelsum; multiplex, versatile, varium. Tanti sub ipsa adolescentia, tam admirabiles ab eo in studiis progressus facti sunt; infinita scientiarum pene omnium materies tam avide et toto, quod ajunt, pectore devorata, ut non ille discere sed reminisci, non excurrere videretur sed evolare ad omnem literaturœ excellentiam. Duram et asperam tactu Philosophiam solus fere tractare potuit, nec tamen elegantiœ suae valedicere; et simul ei et diserto esse concessum est, et Musas severiores colere. Ad rem vero medicinalem illustrandam non tam alienis institutis, quam propria naturœ vi; non tam rudimentis artium, quam usu; non tam discendo, quam agendo atque experiundo, totus abreptus est. Neque tamen in ultimis ejus laudibus ponendum censeo, quod tam ardenti flagraverit studio ea omnia versandi atque ediscendi, quœ antiqui literis mandarunt, viri et arte et facundia insignes, quique miram in scriptis obtinent tum medendi tum scribendi salubritatem. Etenim si apud medicos alicujus pretii habeantur, quœ habentur certe maximi, in observando acumen et diligentia, in communicando fides; si honestius sit ac fructuosius scientiam ex ipsis fontibus potius haurire, quam eam in arescentes rivulos dispertitam consectari, profecto aut apud veteres est, aut nusquam est, quod quœritur. Etsi enim diffitendum neutiquam sit, plurima, a veteribus prave intellecta, diem castigasse; etsi vel prœdicandem sit, plurima, ab iis prorsus ignorata, in lucem ususque vestros diem protulisse; ea tamen eorum merita sunt, ut raro vir magnus quisquam extiterat, nisi quem haec studia oblectarint, haec ornaverit sapientia, hi magistri docuerint;" p.20.
(5) Malcolm's Londinum Redivivum, vol. iii, p.384]

(Volume II, page 48)

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