Lives of the fellows

Lucas (Sir) Pepys

b.26 May 1742 d.17 June 1830
AB Oxon(1764) AM(1767) MB(1770) MD(1774) FRCP(1775)

Sir Lucas Pepys, Bart., M.D., was a younger son of William Pepys, esq., of London, banker, and of Ridley hall, Cheshire, by Hannah, daughter of Richard Russell, M.D., of Brighton, and widow of Alexander Weller, esq. He was born in London, 26th May, 1742, and educated at Eton, whence he removed to Christ church, Oxford, and as a member of that house graduated A.B. 9th May, 1764, when, applying himself to medicine, he proceeded to Edinburgh, and on the 22nd February, 1765, was admitted a member of the Medical Society of that city. Returning to Oxford, he graduated A.M. 13th May, 1767, M.B. 30th April, 1770, and M.D. 14th June, 1774. Shortly after taking his second degree in arts, he obtained a licence ad practicandum from the university, and settling in London, was on the 10th February, 1769, elected physician to the Middlesex hospital. He was, as we have seen, a grandson ex parte maternâ of Dr. Russell, of Brighton, the author of a well-known work on the use of sea water in glandular disease; and on commencing practice, was in the habit of residing during the summer months at Brighton. This he did for many years, and on the death of Dr. Relhan, in 1776, had the whole of the medical business there without any competitor. Dr. Pepys was admitted a Candidate of the College of Physicians 30th September, 1774, a Fellow 30th September, 1775; he was Censor in 1777, 1782, 1786,1796; Treasurer from 1788 to 1798 inclusive; Elect 21st March, 1797; and President from 1804 to 1810. He was appointed physician extraordinary to the king in 1777; was created a baronet 22nd January, 1784; and was called into attendance on George the Third in his severe illness of 1788 and 1789. As an acknowledgment of his services on this occasion, Sir Lucas Pepys was appointed in 1792 physician in ordinary to the king, and on the death of Sir Clifton Wintringham, in 1794, physician-general to the army. This appointment gave him much patronage and authority. An army medical board was appointed in 1794, consisting of the physician-general to the army, the surgeon-general, and the inspector-general, the president of which was the physician-general, Sir Lucas Pepys. In this capacity he had the appointment of all the physicians in the army, as had the surgeon-general of all the surgeons. Sir Lucas made his appointments, we are told by Sir James M‘Grigor, from the ranks of civil life, without regard to previous service in the army, and proceeding on the principle that the army physician should possess the most extensive acquirements and the most complete education, he made it a rule that all candidates for appointment should be fellows or licentiates of the College of Physicians of London, of which body he was himself, during many of the years he was at the head of the army board, the President. This army medical board, with Sir Lucas Pepys at its head, directed the whole medical affairs of the army for above fifteen years, when it was found expedient by Government to supersede it and establish a new board, consisting of medical officers of long service in the army, of practical experience, and who had served abroad and in various climates. This change was necessitated by the overwhelming sickness and mortality of the troops at Walcheren, to investigate and report on which to Government, the physician-general, Sir Lucas Pepys, was ordered to proceed thither. But he in an evil hour declined, assigning as his reason that he was not acquainted with the diseases of soldiers in camp or in quarters. Unfortunately neither of the other two members of the Board volunteered their services. The army medical board on retiring, as they had to do shortly after this episode, received from Government handsome remuneration for their past services, each of its members being assigned a liberal pension for life.

Sir Lucas Pepys took an active part in establishing the National Vaccine institution, which was formed during his presidency, and its direction vested, mainly through his influence, in the College of Physicians and the College of Surgeons. The Pharmacopoeia Londi-nensis of 1820 appeared during Sir Lucas Pepys’ presidency, and the preface to it is from his pen.

Sir Lucas Pepys was a person of great firmness and determination, somewhat dictatorial in his bearing, and formed to command. He lived singularly free from suffering or disease, survived to a ripe old age, and died at his house in Park-street, Grosvenor-square, 17th June, 1830, aged eighty-eight. He was twice married—first, on the 30th October, 1772, to the right honorable Jane Elizabeth, countess of Rothes, a peeress of Scotland in her own right, by whom he had two sons and one daughter; and secondly, on the 29th June, 1813, to Deborah, daughter of Anthony Askew, M.D., who survived him. His portrait by Edridge was engraved by J. Godby.

William Munk

(Volume II, page 304)

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