Lives of the fellows

John Latham

b.29 December 1761 d.20 April 1843
AB Oxon(1782) AM(1784) MB(1786) MD(1788) FRCP(1789) FRS

John Latham, M.D., was the eldest son of the Rev. John Latham, A.B., of Oriel college, Oxford, minister of Siddington in Cheshire, by his wife Sarah, daughter of Richard Podmore, esq., of Sandbach, in the same county, and was born on the 29th December, 1761, at Gawsworth, co. Chester, in the house of his great-uncle the Rev. William Hall, then rector of that parish. He received his early education at the grammar school of Manchester, and in 1778 was entered at Brasenose college, Oxford, as a member of which he proceeded A.B. 9th February, 1782; A.M. 15th October, 1784 ; M.B. 3rd May, 1786; M.D. 3rd April, 1788. He married in 1784; and, having obtained from the university a licence to practise, commenced business at Manchester. He was elected physician to the infirmary of that town in 1784, but resigned his office in 1786, when he removed to Oxford; and on the 11th July, 1787, was appointed physician to the Radcliffe infirmary. In the following year Dr. Latham settled in London; was admitted a Candidate of the College of Physicians 30th September, 1788; and a Fellow 30th September, 1789. He was elected physician to the Middlesex hospital 15th October, 1789, and about the same time physician to the Magdalen hospital. On the 17th January, 1793, he received the appointment of physician to St. Bartholomew’s hospital, when he resigned his office at the Middlesex. Dr. Latham from the first was an active, and soon became a very influential, fellow of the College. In 1792 he undertook to arrange the library, which had fallen into great disorder, and he accomplished the task in a manner so satisfactory to his colleagues that he was unanimously voted one hundred pounds. He was Censor in 1790, 1794, 1801, 1803, 1807; Gulstonian lecturer, 1793; Harveian orator, 1794; Croonian lecturer, 1795; Elect, 4th July, 1806; and President, 1813, 1814, 1815, 1816, 1817, 1818, 1819. He resigned his office of Elect 11th August, 1829. Dr. Latham’s exertions on first settling in London were excessive, and he soon obtained a large and lucrative practice. In 1795 he was appointed physician extraordinary to the prince of Wales, and was reappointed to the same office on the accession of that prince to the throne in 1820. "At the age of forty-six," says the writer of an interesting memoir of him (his son, P. M. Latham, M.D.) in the "Medical Gazette," 5th May, 1843, " Dr. Latham was worn out by the hard labour of his early success. He was believed to be consumptive, and he retired into the country, it was thought, to die. He had a few years previously purchased an estate at Sandbach, Cheshire, whither he removed, and, under the influence of country air and complete relaxation from the cares and toils of professional business, eventually recovered. He thereupon returned to London, and resumed the exercise of his profession. He felt, however, that if he was to keep the health he had regained, he must never again put it to the same hazard. Accordingly he now removed far away from the sphere of his former business. He left Bedford-row and settled in Harley-street. And here for twenty years he enjoyed, with a more moderate practice, a larger share of health than he had known during the days of his greater labour and greater success. In 1829, having reached his sixty-eighth year, Dr. Latham finally left London. Fourteen years of life yet remained to him. For two-thirds of this period he enjoyed the comforts which are still within the reach of a vigorous old age. For the last third was reserved the sharpest of all bodily afflictions—the formation and gradual increase of stone in the bladder. Under this he sank, and died at his seat, Bradwall-hall, Cheshire, on the 20th April, 1843, in the eighty-second year of his age, having then been for some years the father of the College. Those who knew Dr. Latham, both his patients and brother physicians, speak of him with great, esteem and affection. His patients remember the confidence and encouragement which accompanied his address, his sincerity, his straightforwardness, and his liberality; and there are physicians now grey-headed who speak of the kindness and countenance they received from him in the days of their youth. But the highest virtues of good men are unseen by the world while they live, and are kept sacred for the solace and contemplation of their families when they die. More, therefore, need not be said of Dr. Latham, except that he was singularly temperate, when temperance was hardly yet thought to be a virtue; he was most pure in life and conversation when to have been otherwise would have provoked no censure; and he was not ashamed to be religious when religion had yet no recommendation or countenance from the world."

Dr. Latham’s portrait, by Dance, in 1798, was engraved by W. Daniell; and another at a later period of his life, in his robes as President of the College of Physicians, was painted by Jackson, and engraved by Sievier. He was a fellow of the Royal and Linnæan Societies, contributed several papers to the "Medical Transactions," and was the author of—
On Rheumatism and Gout. 8vo. Lond. 1796.
A Plan of a Charitable Institution to be established on the Sea-Coast. 8vo. Lond. 1791.
Facts and Opinions concerning Diabetes. 8vo. Lond. 1811.

William Munk

(Volume II, page 393)

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