Lives of the fellows

Stephen Luke

b.1763 d.30 March 1829
MD Aberd(1792) Ex LRCP(1806) LRCP(1815) MB Cantab(1816) MD(1821)

Stephen Luke, M.D., was born at Penzance in 1763, and educated by the Rev. James Parker, a gentleman who sent into the world many distinguished scholars. At a suitable age he was apprenticed to Mr. Richard Moyle, an apothecary at Marazion; and subsequently proceeded to London, where and in Paris he spent three years in the study of his profession. Returning to England, he became a member of the corporation of Surgeons, and commenced practice in London. His health however giving way, he returned to Cornwall and entered into partnership with a surgeon apothecary at Helston.

On the 24th June, 1792, he received the degree of doctor of medicine from the university of Aberdeen, and about the same time married Miss Harriot Vyvyan, a sister of the Cornish baronet of that name. In the same year Dr. Luke settled as a physician at Falmouth, and remained there for several years. His progress in this character was unusually rapid. He soon attained the highest reputation in the county of Cornwall, and his business for many years was more extensive and lucrative than that of any physician west of Plymouth.

During the period of Dr. Luke’s residence at Falmouth, that town was the scene of much business and activity. Most of the foreign packets sailed from that port. The charge of the quarantine was committed to Dr. Luke, and this appointment introduced him to all the practice in the packet and merchant service. Almost all invalids then leaving the kingdom for the benefit of their health were compelled by the circumstances of the war to pass through Falmouth to their destination.

Travelling was then tedious and fatiguing, detention ere getting on board was a frequent occurrence, and, as a consequence, a large number of patients came under the temporary care and observation of Dr. Luke. Not a few of these remained in Cornwall for the sole purpose of availing themselves of his assistance, and for such patients the neighbouring village of Flushing offered an appropriate winter residence. Dr. Luke was admitted an Extra-Licentiate of the College of Physicians 23rd July, 1806.

Dr. Luke’s health had never been very robust, and the fatigues of a country practice extending over a large district, were becoming more than his strength could bear. In 1808 he determined on leaving Falmouth, and proceeded to make his arrangements for settling in London. With a view to securing a good position in the metropolis and the fellowship of the College of Physicians, to the attainment of which a doctor’s degree from one of the two English universities was essential, he determined to enter at Cambridge and proceed regularly to his degree on such short and occasional residences as the university then permitted to those intended for physic. He entered at Jesus College, then removed to Edinburgh for the session of 1808-9; returned to Cambridge; kept a few terms, and, in 1811, took up his abode at Exeter, with no intention of making any lengthened stay there, but to pass away the time which must elapse before he could be admitted to his degree in physic at Cambridge.

Dr. Parr, the learned author of the London Medical Dictionary, 2 vols. 4to. 1809, had but recently died when Dr. Luke went to Exeter; a fair scope for business was therefore open to him, and those who knew Dr. Luke well, have assured me that he rapidly obtained confidence, and was largely employed, and that his removal from Exeter in 1814 or 1815 was very generally regretted. Dr. Luke went from Exeter to Cambridge, and whilst there was instrumental in saving the life of the master of his college, Dr. Pearce, who was suddenly attacked with paralysis, under which it was thought he would have succumbed had it not been for Dr. Luke’s prompt and energetic treatment.

Dr. Luke did not wait for his Cambridge degree before settling in London. He was admitted a Licentiate of the College of Physicians 20th June, 1815, in the following year he obtained his degree of M.B. from Cambridge, and in 1821 proceeded M.D. in due course. In 1828 Dr. Luke was gazetted physician extraordinary to the king (George IV). He was admitted a Candidate of the College 22nd December, 1828, and died a few weeks after, at his house in Cavendish-square, 30th March, 1829, aged sixty-six.

William Munk

(Volume III, page 131)

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