Lives of the fellows

Hermann (Sir) Weber

b.30 December 1823 d.11 November 1918
MD Bonn(1848) LRCP(1855) FRCP(1859)

Hermann Weber was born in Germany, the son of L. Weber, a landowner, and his Italian wife Maria Ruperti. His earliest days were spent on his father’s farms in Bavaria and Hesse-Cassel, and he studied medicine at Marburg and at Bonn, where he graduated in 1848 and began to practise as a physician. As a student, he had been greatly impressed by translations of Shakespeare’s plays and resolved to learn English so that he could read them in their original language. His enthusiasm brought him into contact with English visitors to Marburg and Bonn, amongst whom he made the acquaintance of Carlyle and James Simpson. He was thus disposed to accept the post of house physician at the German Hospital, Dalston. He had intended to return to Germany, but he found himself attracting patients in England. He married an English wife in 1854 and decided to remain. He accordingly entered Guy’s Hospital as a student in order to obtain an English qualification and became an L.R.C.P. in 1855.

Weber was a man of extraordinary charm and quickly obtained a large and distinguished practice, his patients including five Prime Ministers, Derby, Russell, Salisbury, Rosebery and Campbell-Bannerman. But he was equally admired and, in many cases, consulted by his professional colleagues such as Lister, Paget, Gull, Henry Thompson and Spencer Wells. Weber, who was consulting physician to the Royal National Hospital for Consumption at Ventnor and to the North London Consumption Hospital, as well as to the German Hospital, was one of the earliest and most impressive advocates of the open-air treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. He was also one of the first in England to recommend the Alpine health resorts. His main contributions to medical literature were on the subjects of pulmonary tuberculosis and climatology. He also wrote articles for Quain’s Dictionary of Medicine and Allbutt’s System of Medicine and, in association with his son F. Parkes Weber, F.R.C.P, a book on The Mineral Waters and Health Resorts of Europe (1896). He was Croonian Lecturer in 1885 and a Censor at the Royal College of Physicians, and in 1896 presented £3,000 to the College for the foundation of the Weber-Parkes Prize to be awarded triennially for an essay on tuberculosis, in memory of his friend Edmund Parkes, F.R.C.P. He was knighted in 1899.

If a doctor should himself be an example of health, Weber was a supreme instance. Every year, he spent his holidays climbing in Switzerland, Austria or Italy. Many of the earliest Alpine ascents were made by him. At the age of sixty-seven, he climbed the Wetterhorn and Jungfrau. At seventy-three, with a retired guide, he crossed the Capuchin from Pontresina to Sils, and at the age of seventy-nine he crossed the Diarolezza several times. He was eighty before he retired from practice, and, for the next fifteen years, devoted himself to collecting old coins, travelling in search of them all over southern Europe and the Middle East, and becoming a recognised authority on the subject consulted by the experts of the British Museum. Although temperate in his habits, he was no ascetic and prided himself on the quality of the wines in his cellar. He was in his ninety-fifth year when he died. His wife was Matilda, daughter of J. F. Gruning of Highbury Grove; they had three daughters and two sons.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1918; B.M.J., 1918; Times, 14 Nov. 1918]

(Volume IV, page 121)

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