Lives of the fellows

Richard (Sir) Manningham

b.? d.11 May 1759
LLB Cantab(1717) FRS(1719/20) LRCP(1720)

Sir Richard Manningham was born in Hampshire, and was the second son of Thomas Manningham, D.D., bishop of Chichester. He took the degree of LL.B. at Cambridge (comitiis Regiis), 1717; and in the following year built Park chapel, Cheltenham. Whether he was ever in holy orders is uncertain; we know, however, that shortly after this he devoted himself to physic. On the 24th March, 1719-20, he was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society, and on the 30th September, 1720, a Licentiate of the College of Physicians. He practised chiefly as an accoucheur, and attained to great eminence in that department of the profession. He was knighted by king George I., 18th February, 1721; and dying, after a very prosperous career, on the 11th May, 1759, was buried at Chelsea. Sir Richard Manningham gained much credit by detecting and exposing the imposture of Mary Toft, the rabbit-breeder of Godalming, in Surrey, who had succeeded in deceiving not only her own medical attendant, Mr. Howard, but also Mr. Ahlers and Mr. St. André, the former domestic and the latter serjeant-surgeon to George I., who had sent them to Godalming to inquire into the circumstances. To queen Caroline, then princess of Wales, is ascribed the merit of having been active in promoting measures to detect the imposition. The miraculous Mary Toft was therefore brought to town, where she could be more closely watched than at Godalming, and prevented from obtaining the means of carrying on her imposture. Sir Richard Manningham was among those who took a part on this occasion ; and he had at length the satisfaction of detecting her. The woman held out, till her courage was shaken by a threat to perform a dangerous operation upon her, which threat was backed by another from a magistrate, that she should be sent to prison. She then confessed the fraud, and the farce terminated by the Godalming miracle-monger being committed to Tothill Fields prison.(1) Sir Richard published in 1726 his
Exact Diary of what was observed during a close attendance' upon Mary Toft, the pretended Rabbit Breeder, from November 28th to December 7th following; together with an Account of the Confession of the Fraud.

He was the author also of
Artis Obstetricæ Compendium, tam theoriam quam praxin spectans. 4to. Lond. 1739.
This was afterwards newly arranged and republished, in 1756, under the title "Aphorismata Medica," 12mo.
An Abstract of Midwifery, for the use of the Lying-in Infirmary. 8vo. Lond. 1744.
The Plague no Contagious Disorder, published anonymously in 1744; but reprinted in 1758, with alterations and his name, under the title of "A Discourse concerning the Plague and Pestilential Fevers: plainly proving that the general productive causes of all Plagues or Pestilence are from some fault in the Air, or from ill and unwholesome Diet."
A Treatise on the Symptoms, Nature, Causes, and Cure of the Febricula, or Little Fever. 8vo. Lond. 1750.

William Munk

[(1) Sketches of Imposture, Deception, and Credulity. 2nd ed. Lond. 1840. p. 142]

(Volume II, page 75)

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