8th March 1712. The Quaker Polymath.

Nowadays in an age of specialism it is noteworthy to discover how many polymaths there were among 18th century physicians.

Such a one was Yorkshire born John Fothergill born Today in 1712 famous as a physician, botanist, plant collector, philanthropist and influential Quaker in support of the American colonial rebels in the 18thc.(1)

Being a Quaker and so denied entry to ‘Oxbridge’, he studied medicine at Edinburgh, later to acquire friendship with influential fellow Quakers, the likes of the banking family Barclays. 

David Barclay of Youngbury and the influential Benjamin Franklin in 1755 became members of The Society of Friends (Quakers), in America.(2)

By the mid-1770.s The Barclay-Bevan Bank was trading with British America in Pennsylvania with connections also with New York and Philadelphia, and involved with arranging funds for supplying the British military in the Colony.

In the political crisis of that decade, David Barclay led a committee of American merchants for repeal of The infamous 1765 Stamp Act  and in November 1774 he called on Franklin, now resident at Craven Street in London, to discuss the tensions between the Colonists and Britain.

The result was a paper drafted by Fothergill and others to resolve the impasse after the so-called Boston Tea Party.

Stamp Act of George III.

Franklin Museum, Craven Street, London.













The Stamp Act was a British direct tax on all printed matter, imposed on America, which, included playing cards, produced on London stamped paper, carrying an embossed Revenue Stamp.

The ostensible reason for the tax was to pay for British troops on the American mainland after the Seven Years War and also to help combat the French and Indian threat.

36, Craven Street London was the home for Benjamin Franklin for 15 years and when it was restored in the last years of the 20thc human bones were discovered relating to the time when the anatomist friend of Franklin was dissecting bodies acquired from ‘Resurrection Men’.

(1) Fothergill developed West Ham Park as a botanical centre previously owned by the Gurney Family.

He is particularly associated with his description of Tregiminal Neuralgia treated surgically by John Carnochan and a description of Streptococcal Sore Throat and the eponymous Fothergill Sign.

(2) Franklin, scientist and politician, one of the founding fathers of America had a house in Craven Street, London and at one time Ambassador to France.


wikipedia.org. john_fothergill.

sciencedirect.com. C Booth, Royal postgraduate medical school, London.


wikipedia.org. stamp_act/Pic.


University of Sheffield. Fothergill by J. Coakley Lettson.4th ed. 1786/Pic of Book.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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