Lives of the fellows

Robert Williams

b.? d.24 November 1845
MB Cantab(1810) MD(1816) FRCP(1817)

Robert Williams, M.D., was born in London, and educated at Trinity college, Cambridge. As a member of that house he proceeded M.B. 1810, M.D. 1816. He was admitted an Inceptor-Candidate of the College of Physicians, 12th June, 1816, a Candidate 23rd December, 1816, and a Fellow 22nd December, 1817. He was Censor in 1831, and was declared an Elect on the 20th March, 1844. Dr. Williams was elected physician to St. Thomas’s hospital, in 1817, and retained that office until his death, which occurred at his house in Bedford-place, Russell-square, on the 24th November, 1845.

Dr. Williams was a physician of extensive attainments, and a good classical scholar. His character as a physician was misunderstood during his life, and was misrepresented after his death. He is said to have been a timid practitioner, but this is not correct. Dr. Williams was distrustful of the evidence on which alone very many articles of the materia medica in daily use repose for justification of their presence in the pharmacopoeias, and he subjected many of these, and most of the new remedies, to a searching examination in the wards of the hospital.

He had early imbibed a strong opinion in favour of the efficacy of specifics in the cure of disease, and was always more or less engaged in seeking them, and he was sanguine in the belief that in time we should discover specific remedies for many maladies which are now considered irremediable. It was in the course of these inquiries that Dr. Williams discovered the powers of iodide of potassium over secondary syphilis, and he it was who introduced into English practice the bromide of potassium, though not in the class of diseases in which it is now specially and so largely administered.

Dr. Williams was the author of the article Elementary Principles of Medicine in the Encyclopædia Metropolitana; and of a very valuable and original work, Elements of Medicine: On Morbid Poisons. 2 vols. 8vo. Lond. 1836 and 1841.

William Munk

(Volume III, page 173)

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