Lives of the fellows

Robert Bree

b.1759 d.6 October 1839
AB Oxon(1778) AM(1781) MB(1782) MD(1791) Ex LRCP(1781) FRCP(1807)

Robert Bree, M.D., was the son of a medical practitioner in Warwickshire, and was born at Solyhull, in that county. He received his early education at Coventry, was matriculated at University college, Oxford, 6th April, 1775, and proceeded A.B. 10th November, 1778, A.M. 10th July, 1781, M.B. 4th July, 1782, M.D. 12th July, 1791. Immediately after taking the second degree in arts, he commenced the practice of his profession, was admitted an Extra-Licentiate of the College of Physicians 31st July, 1781, and, settling at Northampton, was appointed physician to the General infirmary in that town. After a short stay at Northampton, he was solicited by several influential persons to remove to Leicester. He accepted the invitation, and as soon as he was settled, was appointed physician to the Leicester infirmary. Dr. Bree’s progress in his new situation was rapid; his reputation spread, and ere long he was in the enjoyment of a large, respectable, and lucrative business.

About this time he was attacked with asthma. The paroxysms, despite all the measures he adopted, became so frequent and severe, and were besides so often induced by cold and the anxiety and fatigue of business, that after fully considering his prospect, and the obstacles which his state of health constantly opposed to the performance of his duty, he determined to abandon his profession for a time rather than his hopes of a perfect cure. He withdrew from practice in 1793, and in the following year, with the view of avoiding the tedium of an inactive life, accepted a captain’s commission in a militia regiment. His health, under this change of circumstances, rapidly improved; the paroxysms of asthma became less frequent and less severe, and then left him altogether—to return, however, with great severity some thirty years later, and render the latter portion of his life a period of constant suffering, and at times of the most agonising distress.

In 1796 Dr. Bree settled at Birmingham, resumed the exercise of his profession, and in March, 1801, was appointed physician to the General hospital in that town. While at Birmingham he published his well-known and valuable treatise, entitled—
A Practical Inquiry into Disordered Respiration, distinguishing the species of Convulsive Asthma, their Causes and Indications of Cure. 8vo.

In this work he embodied the numerous experiments in his own case, gave a more full and complete view of asthma and dyspnoea than had hitherto appeared, and laid down some important therapeutic rules, the practical value of which has been universally acknowledged. This publication established Dr. Bree’s reputation, and led to his being consulted by the duke of Sussex, a sufferer, like himself, from asthma. By his royal high-ness’s advice, Dr. Bree removed to London. He was admitted a Candidate of the College of Physicians 31st March, 1806, a Fellow 23rd March, 1807, was Censor in 1810, 1819, 1830, Harveian orator 1827, and was named an Elect 2nd July, 1830.

Dr. Bree withdrew from practice in 1833, and died at his house in Park-square, Regent’s-park, 6th October, 1839, aged eighty. Besides the work on asthma above mentioned, which reached a fifth edition,Dr. Bree was the author of a small tract, entitled—
Thoughts on Cholera Asphyxia. 8vo. Lond. 1832.

William Munk

(Volume III, page 49)

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