Lives of the fellows

Daniel Whistler

b.? d.11 May 1684
AM Oxon(1643-4) MD Leyden(1645) MD Oxon(1647) FRCP(1649)

Daniel Whistler, M.D., - A son of William Whistler [The will of William Whistler is at Somerset House (110. Ridley) Mr J C Smith’s Notes] of Elvington, in the parish of Goring, Oxfordshire, but born at Walthamstow, was educated at the free school of Thame, and admitted probationer fellow of Merton college, Oxford, in January, 1639. He took his first degree in arts, and then obtaining leave from his college to travel, passed over to Holland, and on the 8th August, 1642, was entered on the physic line, at Leyden. He proceeded A.M. at Oxford, 8th February, 1643-4, then returned to Leyden, and there took the degree of doctor of medicine 19th October, 1645. His inaugural dissertation on this occasion – De morbo puerili Anglorum, quàm patrio sermone indigenæ vocant ‘the Rickets’ – is worthy of notice, it being the earliest printed account we have of that disease, having preceded the elaborate work of Dr. Glisson by nearly five years. Dr. Whistler’s essay was originally in quarto, but was reprinted in octavo, and published in 1684, the year after the author’s death.

Returning to England, Dr. Whistler got incorporated at Oxford, on his doctor’s degree, 20th May, 1647; and coming before the College of Physicians, was admitted a Candidate 16th July, 1647, and a Fellow 13th December, 1649. He was chosen Gresham professor of geometry, 13th June, 1648, and resigned his office (on marriage), 7th August, 1657. “Afterwards,” says Wood, “he submitted to the power of the Visitors appointed by Parliament; kept his fellowship, though absent, became superior reader of Linacre’s lecture, but read not, because he was practising his faculty in London; and in 1653 he went, as chief physician, to the embassy made by Bulstrode Whitlocke into Sweden.” [P. in 1653 – October – state papers, p.179] [P. In 1653 he was employed by the Admiralty to attend Gen. Blake State Papers, p.178]

On his return, he showed himself an active member of the College. He delivered the Harveian oration for 1659; was Censor, in 1657, 1662, 1663, 1667, 1671, 1672, 1673, 1674, 1675, 1676, 1679, 1680; Registrar, 1674 to the 26th June, 1682; Elect, 13th June, 1676, in place of Dr. Hamey; Treasurer, 1682; and, in an evil hour, was elected President in 1683. Dr. Whistler’s character will not bear examination; and it would have been well for the interests of the College had he not been admitted to some, at least, of the places of trust he was elected to fill. His manners were agreeable, and he shone particularly in society; yet it is but too evident that duty, honour, and probity weighed but lightly with him.

Samuel Pepys speaks of him “as good company, and a very ingenious man;” and his contemporary diarist, Evelyn, terms him “the most facetious man in nature.” His duties as Registrar he systematically neglected; and our Annals, especially during the latter period he held office, are in perplexing and inextricable confusion. Wood says, “he married a rich widow, and his practice for many years before his death brought him 1,000l. per annum, yet he died very much in debt, and worse than nothing.” This event took place the 11th May, 1684, from malignant fever, with peripneumony, in the year of his Presidency, and he was buried in the north aisle of Christ church, Newgate-street.

Dr. Whistler took advantage of his position as President to defraud the College over which he presided; but in what precise manner, or to what extent, is not recorded.
“1684. Maii xiij. Comitiis Extraordinariis, Consultatio fuit, de peculatu insigni Danielis Whistler, Præsidis nuper defuncti, assistenti amplissimo ac prudentissimo viro, Joanne Cutlero, Baronetto.

“1684. Mai xxiv. Comitiis Privatis. Nihil actum præterea de rebus Doctoris Whistler, nisi quod ejus nummi, vasa argentea et id genus pretiosa, coram Præside, Joanne Cutlero Baronetto, Dre Scarburgh, Dre Witherley, Dre Collins, Sen, Dre Rogers, Dre Millington Eq. Aurato, in loco tuto reponebantur, donec alter testamentariæ procurationi præpositus advenerit Dnus Lowther.”

I do not meet with any further distinct references to this disgraceful affair; it became, however, publicly known, and was mentioned in some of the Harveian orations. (1) I am disposed to infer from these, and some subsequent entries in the Annals, that Sir John Cutler reimbursed the College either of the whole or a part of its loss. He certainly lent a considerable sum of money to meet pressing claims upon the Institution, to which he had already proved himself a liberal friend. A portrait of Dr. Whistler is in the College, in company too good for his deserts. It was given by Mr. Boulter, to whom thanks were voted 26th June, 1704.

William Munk

[(1) In that namely of 1707, by Dr. Walter Harris, and of 1721, by Dr. John Hawys.]

[Arms: Morison, Plantarum. Tab 13. Sec.4.]

[118 BULWER (John) Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transformed; or, The Artificial Changeling. Historically Presented in the mad and cruel Gallantry, Foolish Bravery, ridiculous Beauty, Filthy Finesse, and loathsome Lovelinesse of most Nations, Fashioning and altering their Bodies from the Mould intended by Nature. London, J. Hardisty, 1650. £40
First edition, 12mo, engraved title with 21 different types of heads, frontispiece incorporating portrait of Bulwer, contemporary calf, the Britwell Court copy.
S.T.C., B.5460. The extremely rare first edition of one of the most fascinating and erudite books of the 17th century. It is indeed one of the most charming and rewarding books in the whole gamut of English scientific literature.
In the fascinating chapter “Dental Fashions or Tooth-rites” he not only gathers from his vast reading the ideas of his predecessors, giving accounts of deformations of teeth, the earliest recorded tooth-extractions, experiments with transplantations of teeth, gold-plating etc.; but also presents in sections called “Dentifrices recommended which preserve the native whiteness and integrity of the teeth” etc., his own thoughts and experience in the subject. Nine pages are devoted to dental fashions and practice.
On the subject of rickets Bulwer is particularly interesting for he has no less than 5 pages on this complaint. The first book on rickets is dated 1645 and was published on the continent by the English writer Whistler in Latin. The first book published in England on rickets is that by Glisson and his friends in 1650. This was also in Latin and did not appear in English till 1651. Bulwer’s account is then the first considerable account of Rickets in the English language.
He shows considerable good sense in his observations. For example he condemns the wet nurses custom of automatically taking a child out of swaddling clothes at a predetermined age, emphasising that each child should be treated on the merits of its particular growth. He was in this far in advance of the intelligence of his age. Dawsons Cat.103.Jan.1960.]

(Volume I, page 249)

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