Lives of the fellows

Henry Reeve

b.September 1780 d.27 September 1814
MD Edin(1803) Ex LRCP(1807)

Henry Reeve, M.D.,was born in September,1780, and was the second son of Abraham Reeve, esq., of Hadleigh, in the county of Suffolk, by his wife Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Dr. Wallace, rector of Messing, co. Essex. He had his preliminary education at Dedham, under Dr. Grimwood, and when sixteen years of age commenced the study of medicine under Mr. Philip Martineau, of Norwich. He proceeded to Edinburgh in 1800, and during his residence there became intimate with Francis Horner and Lord Dacre, and associated with Brougham, Sidney Smith, and others, who in 1802 originated the Edinburgh Review. He contributed to the early numbers of that Review an article on Pinel’s "Treatment of the Insane," and a paper "On Population." He graduated doctor of medicine at Edinburgh 24th June, 1803 (D.M.I. de Animalibus Hieme Sopitis), and then came to London to continue his medical studies at the Public dispensary under Dr. Willan and elsewhere.

In 1805, at a time when few Englishmen ventured on the continent, Dr. Reeve, in company with his friend and fellow student at Edinburgh, Dr. De Roches, a native of Geneva, set off on a tour, and after some months of wandering found himself at Vienna just as the campaign which ended at Austerlitz had begun. He stayed in Vienna until February, 1806, and returning by way of Dresden and Berlin to Hamburgh, reached England in April. In the course of his travels he saw Napoleon. "The morrow of Austerlitz he had the good fortune to be introduced to Haydn, to be present when Beethoven conducted Fidelio, to hear Humboldt relate his travels, and Fichte lecture on his philosophy, and to meet a great number of persons worthy of note at a time when the continent was thought to be entirely closed against English travellers." His notes of this excursion have been recently published by his son,(1) and to the editors introduction I am indebted for much in the present sketch.

Dr. Reeve settled as a physician at Norwich in 1806, and on the 12th February, 1807, was admitted an Extra-Licentiate of the College of Physicians. He had already associated himself with Dr. Andrew Duncan of Edinburgh, and Dr. Bateman of London, in establishing the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, to the pages of which he was a frequent contributor. In 1820 he published an English version, enlarged and improved, of his inaugural exercise, under the title of "An Essay on the Torpidity of Animals;" shortly after which he commenced a course of physiological lectures to the medical students at Norwich.

He held the appointments of physician to the Norfolk and Norwich hospital, to Bethel, and to the Lunatic asylum. His exertions were indefatigable, and were rewarded by a business which was rapidly increasing till the period when his health, which for some time had been causing anxiety to himself and friends, finally gave way. He consulted many professional friends in London on the nature of the obscure disease from which he was suffering, and visited, first, the coast of Sussex, and then Bath. His symptoms increasing, he retired to his father’s house at Hadleigh, and within a few days died there 27th September, 1814, in the thirty-fifth year of his age.

The regret which followed at Norwich was great and universal. His loss was lamented in private by those who knew his worth, and by the rich and poor who had experienced his kindness and sympathy in the hour of sickness. Expressions of sorrow and esteem appeared in the public journals, and the Philosophical society, after a warm eulo-gium on Dr. Reeve’s character, adjourned its meeting.

He is commemorated by the following inscription on a tablet in the Octagon chapel, Norwich :—
 B.M.
Henrici Reeve M.D.
viri
Scientia, ingenio, virtute,
et moribus gratissimis
ornati;
qui artem suam in hac urbe
feliciter exercebat,
donec acri morbo diuturnoque
implicitus,
aliorum tamen commodis
nihilo segnius inserviens
ipse occubuit,
v id Septembr.
Ann. Chris, clo loccc xiiil æt: xxxv
Susanna Conjux ejus
H. M. Honorar. P. C.

Dr. Reeve, writes his friend, Dr. Bateman, was "possessed of a vigorous understanding and great acuteness, he had stored his mind with the riches of literature and science, and had highly cultivated his taste. He quickly appropriated the information which reading, observation, or the most casual conversation threw in his way, and as readily brought it into use when occasion required it. Hence his conversation was various and intelligent, tempered by a mildness of voice and manner indicative of gentleness of disposition, yet invariably terse and animated, with a considerable propensity to humour where the subject admitted of it. His unvarying cheerfulness and benevolence gave a charm to every action of his life; it extorted the attachment of strangers and riveted the love of his friends; for it was uniform and unchanged under all circumstances, in the privacy of the domestic circle, in the more general company of friends, in public meetings, and in the midst of his professional labours and fatigues, and it continued to a degree truly remarkable through the whole course of his lingering and painful illness to the very period of its termination."(2)

William Munk

[(1) Journal of a Residence at Vienna and Berlin in the Eventful Winter of 1805-6, by the late Henry Reeve, M.D. Published by his soon. Lond. 1877.
(2) Edinburgh Med. and Surg. Journal, vol. xi, p. 261.]

(Volume III, page 46)

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