Lives of the fellows

John Addington Symonds

b.10 April 1807 d.25 February 1871
MD Edin FRCP(1857)

John Symonds was descended from a family that claimed affinity with Elizabeth Symeon, first wife of John Hampden, and with Millington, the regicide. Five recent generations had been connected with the medical profession, and his father, John Symonds, was in practice at Oxford. He himself was educated at Magdalen College School, and attended courses by University lecturers and acted as a dresser at the Radcliffe Infirmary for a year before matriculating at Edinburgh in 1825. On graduating three years later, he returned to Oxford as assistant to his father. In 1831 he settled in Bristol, and in 1832 the General Hospital there elected him physician, a post which he held until the pressure of his successful practice compelled him to resign in 1848, after which he was consulting physician. He held the lectureship in forensic medicine at the Bristol Medical School from 1834 till 1836, and the lectureship in the practice of medicine from 1836 to 1845. At the Royal College of Physicians, he gave the Goulstonian Lectures in 1858 on the subject of headache. He played a leading role in the early affairs of the B.M.A.

With all his other activities, Symonds found time to write profusely on a variety of subjects and contributed articles to many medical and scientific journals. The psychology of insanity, in particular, attracted his curiosity, and he shared Prichard’s belief in the existence of "moral insanity" as a distinct disease. Such questions as the relation of mind and muscle and the significance of dreams were discussed in his lectures and writings. He was withal a man of wide culture, intellectual distinction and artistic feeling. He married in 1834 Harriet, daughter of James Sykes of Leatherhead. One of their five children was John Addington Symonds, the author.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1871; B.M.J., 1871; D. H. Tuke, Prichard and Symonds, 1891; D.N.B., lv, 272]

(Volume IV, page 90)

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