Lives of the fellows

Robert Taylor

b.April 1710 d.15 May 1762
MB Cantab(1732) MD(1737) FRCP(1749) FRS(1752)

Robert Taylor, M.D., was the son of John Taylor, of Newark, twice mayor of that town, and was born there in April, 1710. At an early age he was placed at the Newark grammar school, on Dr. Magnus’s foundation, and in due course was entered at Trinity college, Cambridge, as a member of which he proceeded M.B. 1732; M.D. 7th July, 1737. Returning to Newark in 1732, immediately after taking his first degree in physic, and where the vacancy left by the death of Dr. Mordecai Hunton in 1728 was still unoccupied, he conciliated the esteem of his fellow townsmen by his polished manners, professional assiduity, and general erudition. Whilst practising at Newark, a circumstance occurred which laid the foundation for his rapid promotion, brought him prominently into notice, and led to his advancement to the foremost rank of his profession in London. Lord Burlington and his lady were on a visit to Belvoir castle, some twenty-five miles from Newark, at that time the nearest place from which any extraordinary medical assistance could be procured. His lordship was taken dangerously ill, and Dr. Taylor was summoned to his assistance. The symptoms were alarming, and the gravest apprehensions were entertained as to their issue, but they yielded to the doctor’s unremitting attention and (it is said) to the bold administration of opium. Dr. Taylor’s skill and bearing so won on the noble inmates of the castle, that they prevailed upon him to remove to London, where their united efforts soon established him in extensive business, and obtained for him the patronage of Sir Edward Hulse, who was then gradually withdrawing himself from practice. Lady Burlington’s exertions in his behalf were indefatigable. She took him in her own carriage, as soon as he had established himself in London, and introduced him to all her acquaintance as a prodigy of medical skill, and she is said to have employed herself for several weeks in driving about and seeking out invalids, on all of whom she absolutely forced her favourite physician.

Dr. Taylor was admitted a Candidate of the College of Physicians 4th April, 1748, and a Fellow 20th March, 1749. He was Gulstonian lecturer in 1750, Censor 1751, and Harveian orator in 1755. His oration, which ranks among the most polished in style and the most elaborated in matter of any that have been published, is remarkable as being the medium for disseminating, more especially to foreign countries, the opinion of the College of Physicians with respect to inoculation.(1) Dr. Taylor was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society 7th December, 1752. He held the appointment of physician to the king, and died 15th May, 1762. At the time of his decease he was erecting a fine mansion at Winthorpe, near Newark, where he had hoped to spend the evening of his days. But it was unfinished at the time of his death, and was soon afterwards sold. Dr. Taylor’s body was to have been brought to Winthorpe for interment, but he was really buried in South Audley-street chapel, from which, however, in 1778, his remains and those of an infant son were removed to Winthorpe, where his widow had constructed a small private vault for their reception as well as for her own. He and his wife are commemorated by a monument in Winthorpe church, which is thus inscribed:—
To the Memory of
Robert Taylor, M.D.,
Physician in Ordinary to his Majesty,
who died 15th May, 1762, aged 53.
of Elizabeth Taylor, his wife,
who died 10th May, 1812, aged 86,
and of Robert Taylor, their infant son.
This monument is erected
by their only daughter
Elizabeth Chaplin.

Dr. Taylor was twice married, first to Anne, youngest daughter of John Heron, esquire. She died in 1757, and was buried at Newark. Secondly, on the 9th November, 1759, to Elizabeth Mainwaring, of Lincoln, " with a fortune of ten thousand pounds." His only surviving child, a daughter Elizabeth, became the wife of Henry Chaplin, esquire, of Blankney hall, co. Lincoln. Dr. Taylor’s portrait is at Blankney.

He was the author of—
Epistola Critica ad O.V.D. Edoardum Wilmot, Baronettum; in qua quatuor Quæstionibus ad Variolas Insitivas spectantibus orbi medico denuo propositus ab Antonio De Haen in Univ. Vindobonensi Professore primerio, directè responsum est. 4to. Lond. 1761.
Sex Historiæ Medicæ sive Morborum aliquot funestorum et rariorum Commentarius. 4to. Lond. 1761.

These, with his Harveian oration, were published together, under the title of—
Miscellanea Medica. 4to. Lond. 1761.

William Munk

[(1) "The College having been informed that false reports concerning the success of Inoculation in England have been published in foreign countries, think proper to declare their sentiments in the following manner, viz,, that the arguments which at the commencement of this practice were urged against it had been refuted by experience ; that it is now held by the English in greater esteem, and practised among them more extensively than ever it was before, and that the College thinks it to be highly salutary to the human race." "Quoniam Collegio nuntiatum fuit, falsos de Variolarum Insititiarum in Anglia successu a et existimatione apud exteras gentes nuper exiisse rumores, eidem Collegio sententiam suam de rebus hisce ad hanc modum declarare plaeuit: videlicet, argumenta, quæ contra hanc variolas inserendi consuetudinem in principio afferebantur, experientiam refellisse; eamque hoc tempore majori in honore apud Anglos haberi, magisque quam unquam antea inter eos nunc invalescere; atque humano generi valde salutarem esse se existimare." Oratio Anniversaria ex Harveii instituto habita A.D. MDCCLV. A Roberto Taylor, M.D., p. 52]

(Volume II, page 167)

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