Lives of the fellows

John Jebb

b.16 February 1736 d.March 1786
AB Cantab(1757) AM(1760) MD St And(1777) LRCP(1777) FRS(1779)

John Jebb, M.D., was the eldest son of Dr. John Jebb, dean of Cashel, and was born in London 16th February, 1736. He received his preliminary education in Ireland, whence he was transferred to Cambridge, and entered at Peterhouse, of which society he subsequently became a fellow. He proceeded A.B. 1757, A.M. 1760, received orders in the Church of England, and obtained some Church preferment. He had early adopted the plan of giving theological lectures at Cambridge, which were attended by numerous pupils, until his peculiar opinions became generally known, when (in 1770) a prohibition was published in the university. How soon he had begun to deviate from the opinions he held at the time of his ordination is uncertain, but in a letter dated 21st October, 1775, he says, "I have for seven years past in my lectures steadily maintained the proper unity of God, and that He alone should be the object of worship." He adds, that he warned his hearers that this was not the received opinion, but that his own was settled, and exhorted them to inquire diligently. He had vacated his fellowship at Peterhouse by his marriage, on the 29th December, 1764, to Miss Torkington, and in 1775 he came to the resolution of resigning his ecclesiastical preferments, viz., the rectory of Homersfield, and the vicarage of Flitton, in Suffolk. By the advice of his friends he then applied himself to the study of medicine. For this new object he studied indefatigably, and was created doctor of medicine by the university of St. Andrew’s in the early part of 1777. He was admitted a Licentiate of the College of Physicians 25th June, 1777, when he settled in Craven-street, Strand, and commenced practice as a physician. He was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society 25th February, 1779.

Dr. Jebb was highly esteemed among the violent partisans of unbounded liberty, religious and political, and was undoubtedly a person of learning and talents, though they were both so much absorbed in controversy as to leave little among his writings of general or permanent use. Amidst the cares of his new profession he did not withdraw his attention from theological study, nor from what he considered as the cause of true liberty. He was still, as he had been for many years, zealous for the abolition of subscription, a warm friend to the cause of America against England, an incessant advocate for annual parliaments and universal suffrage, a writer in newspapers, and a speaker at public meetings. So many eager pursuits seem to have exhausted his constitution, and he died, apparently of a decline, in March, 1786. His portrait, by Hoppner, was engraved by J. Young. Dr. Jebb’s learning was varied and extensive. He was master of many languages, among which were Hebrew and Arabic, and during his last illness he studied Saxon and the Anglo-Saxon laws and antiquities. He had twice been a candidate for the professorship of Arabic at Cambridge. He had, too, some knowledge of the law, which he once thought of making his profession, even after he had applied himself to medicine. He was a good mathematician, and was concerned with two friends in publishing at Cambridge a small quarto volume entitled "Excerpta quædam e Newtonii Principiis Philosophiæ Naturalis, cum Notis Variorum," which was received as a standard book of instruction at the university. Dr. Jebb’s only medical publication was "Select Cases of the Disorders commonly called Paralysis of the Lower Extremities. 8vo. Lond. 1782." This, with his other writings, were collected into three volumes 8vo. By Dr. Disney, and published in 1787.(1)

William Munk

[(1) Nichols’ Literary Anecdotes, vol. i, p. 571]

(Volume II, page 309)

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