Lives of the fellows

Bernard O'Connor

b.c.1666 d.30 October 1698
MD Rheims(1691) FRS(1695) LRCP(1695)

Bernard O’Connor, MD, was descended from an ancient family, and was born in the county of Kerry, about the year 1666. He studied at the universities of Montpelier and Paris, but took the degree of doctor of medicine at Rheims 18th September, 1691. In Paris he met with the two sons of the High Chancellor of Poland then on the point of returning to their own country. They were entrusted to O’Connor’s care, and he travelled with them, first into Italy. At Venice he was called to attend William Legge earl of Dartmouth, then seriously ill with fever; and, having recovered his patient, accompanied him to Padua. Thence he passed through Bavaria and Austria, down the Danube to Vienna, and after some stay at the court of the emperor Leopold, passed through Moravia and Silesia to Cracow, and thence to Warsaw.

He was well received by king John Sobieski, and in the beginning of 1694, being then only twenty-eight years of age, was appointed physician to his Majesty. His reputation at the Polish court was great, and it was deservedly raised by his accurate diagnosis in the case of the king’s sister, the duchess of Bedzevil. This lady was treated by her physicians for an ague, but O’Connor insisted that she had abscess of the liver, and that her case was desperate. His prediction made a great noise among the court, more especially when it was justified by the event, for she died within a month; and upon examination of the body, his opinion of her malady was fully verified.

Dr O’Connor did not remain long at Warsaw; but having obtained the appointment of physician to Teresa Cunigunda, who had been espoused by the Elector of Bavaria, by proxy, in 1694, and was about to leave for Brussels, he accompanied the princess on her journey. Arrived at that place, he took leave of the princess, and passing through Holland, reached England in February, 1695. He stayed but a short time in London, and then went to Oxford, where he delivered a few lectures on anatomy and physiology.

In his travels he had conversed with Malpighi, Bellini, Redi, and other celebrated physicians, and of their communications had made a proper use. In these lectures he explained the new discoveries in anatomy, chemistry, and physic in so clear a manner that they added greatly to his reputation. This was still further increased by his publishing, during his sojourn at Oxford, Dissertationes Medico-Physicæ de Antris Lethiferis; de Montis Vesuvii Incendio; de Stupendo Ossium coalitu; de Immani Hypogastri Sarcomate. Many very curious questions are therein discussed, and several curious facts related, which prove the author to have been a man of much thought and observation, as well as of great reading and general knowledge.

In the summer of 1695 he returned to London, where he read lectures as he had done at Oxford; was elected a fellow of the Royal Society; and on the 6th April, 1696, was admitted a Licentiate of the College of Physicians. In 1697 he published his Evangelium Medici seu Medicina Mystica de suspensis Naturæ legibus sive de Miraculis. This little work, which contained sixteen sections only, made a great noise, and was reprinted within the year. The author acquired reputation for learning and ingenuity, but his religion and orthodoxy were called in question. He subsequently published The History of Poland in two volumes, containing much novel and interesting information.

Dr O’Connor died of fever, 30th October, 1698, when he was little more than thirty-two years of age, and was buried at St Giles’s-in-the-Fields. His funeral sermon was preached at St Giles, by William Hayley, DD, rector of the parish and chaplain in ordinary to the king. It was published in 1699.

William Munk

(Volume I, page 514)

<< Back to List