Lives of the fellows

John Henry Bridges

b.11 October 1832 d.15 June 1906
BA Oxon(1855) BM(1859) FRCP(1867)

J. H. Bridges was the second son of Charles Bridges, vicar of Old Newton, Suffolk, his birthplace, and Harriet Torlesse. He went from Rugby to Wadham College, Oxford, with a scholarship, and took a classical degree in 1855. Being elected to a fellowship at Oriel, he decided on a medical career, and, having studied at St. George’s Hospital and in Paris, graduated as B.M. in 1859. In 1860 he emigrated to Melbourne, but returned to practise in Bradford after the death of his wife, Susan, fifth daughter of C. Torlesse, vicar of Stoke-by-Nayland. He was appointed physician to Bradford Infirmary in 1861 and a factory inspector for the North Riding in 1869. A year later he moved to London to begin work as a Metropolitan medical inspector to the Local Government Board, an office which he held till 1892, after which he was a manager of the Metropolitan Asylums Board. In 1892 also he delivered the Harveian Oration at the Royal College of Physicians.

Bridges, however, was known principally for his literary achievements. An ardent disciple of Auguste Comte and a friend, since his undergraduate days, of Frederic Harrison and E. S. Beesly, he became a leader of the positivist movement in England and translated Comte’s General View of Positivism in 1865 and, with Harrison, Comte’s Positive Polity in 1875. A course of lectures on Richelieu and Colbert by Bridges was published in 1866 and his edition of Roger Bacon’s Opus Major in 1897 and, with corrections, again in 1900. Indeed, Bridges was a man who influenced, by his writing, by his conversation and by his deep humanitarianism, the thought of his day to a greater extent than his own fame would suggest.

Bridges’ second wife, whom he married in 1869, was Mary Alice, daughter of George Hadwen, a Halifax silk manufacturer. He died at Tunbridge Wells.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1906; B.M.J., 1906; Times, 26 June 1906; D.N.B., 2nd Suppl., i, 222; J. H. Bridges, Recollections, 1908; S. Liveing, A Nineteenth-century teacher, 1926]

(Volume IV, page 156)

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