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- SIR WILLIAM FRANKLIN, M.D. K.C.H. F.R.S.
FELLOW OF THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS, EDINBURGH ;
HONORARY FELLOW OF THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF SURGEONS, EDINBURGH; AND PRINCIPAL INSPECTOR GENERAL OF THE ARMY MEDICAL DEPARTMENT.
The family of Sir William Franklin is traced originally from the county of York, but his more immediate ancestors were natives of London. His father, Robert Franklin, Esq. was a man of great respectability and considerable attainments; he held for many years the responsible situation of Deputy Comptroller of the Customs, and resided in the parish of St. Andrew's, Holborn.
In the year 1763, either in the parish of St. Andrew's, or at Stoke Newington, where Mr. Franklin also occasionally resided, the subject of our present memoir was born.
His father shortly afterwards removing to Peckham, at that time a rural village in the neighbourhood of London, young Franklin was there educated, for the first years of his life, under the care and tuition of his mother. Subsequently he underwent the ordinary routine of a school in the vicinity of Peckham, and at the age of sixteen was placed under his father as a clerk in the Custom House. In those days, as well, too frequently, as in the present, the talents and peculiar disposition of a boy were far less considered in the choice of a profession, than the accidental circumstances and convenience of his parents. This was precisely the case with young Franklin.
For two long years, according to his father's dictation, but sorely against his own will, he remained at the desk of the Custom House; but at last, by the constant aversion which he displayed to the sedentary labours of,
the desk, and by his repeated solicitations for some more active and enterprising line of life, he obtained permission of his father to embrace the study of medicine. For this study he had continually manifested a decided predilection; still, however, great difficulties were in his way. His father, though he acquiesced in the change, yet was so averse to furnish any assistance in the furtherance of his son's views, that he refused to provide any pecuniary means towards his medical education. Thụs thrown back upon his own resources at the early age of eighteen, he was in a situation where most young men would have at once abandoned all hope of suc
Not so, however, with our young friend. He went upon the great principle laid down by the poet, -" Hâc non successimus, aliâ aggrediemur irâ.” Driven from the father, he appealed to a maternal uncle of the name of Madox, who, at that period, was a general practitioner of considerable repute at Rotherhithe. Mr. Madox immediately received him under his charge, furnished him with all necessary means of working his way, and bound him as apprentice to Mr. Robert Mackclellan, apothecary to the Foundling Hospital. Thus he commenced the study of that profession upon which he had so long set his heart.
At the end of two years from this period Mr. Franklin repaired to Edinburgh, the most celebrated school of medicine in Europe. Here he had the advantage of being under the instruction of the most able medical professors of the day - attending the lectures of Dr. Gregory, Dr. Monro, Professors Black and Cullen. At that time Edinburgh was the resort of students from every quarter of the globe. A considerable number of foreigners, particularly of Americans, were attending the lectures of the University. Nor was this popularity at all unaccountable. In addition to the medical names just mentioned, Robertson, Adam Smith, and Blair were in the zenith of their reputation. The deep learning and philosophy which were displayed in the writings of these men could not but attract the notice of the world, and at the same time lay the foundation of useful and extensive
knowledge in the minds of the students. Among others, with whom Mr. Franklin was here contemporary, we may mention the late Sir James Mackintosh, at that time pursuing the study of medicine, and also the present eminent Sir Henry Halford.
After going through, with great credit to himself, the regular routine of study at Edinburgh, Mr. Franklin returned to London, and entered himself as a pupil at Guy's Hospital, under Dr. Saunders. He was also, at the same time, a pupil at the London Hospital, under Sir William Blizard. With Dr. Saunders he ever remained on terms of the most friendly intimacy; as also with Sir Walter Farquhar, and many other eminent medical men, with whom he had the good fortune to associate in London. We must not omit to state that, during the whole of this period, his pecuniary resources arose principally from his uncle, Mr. Madox ; and it is but justice, at the same time, to mention that every farthing of money so advanced was afterwards, when Mr. Franklin began to reap the fruits of his professional labours, most scrupulously repaid as a debt. He may justly, therefore, be said to have provided his own education ; and throughout the whole career of his åttendance at the hospitals and lectures, by his honourable conduct, as well as by the talents which he displayed in his profession, he advanced himself very swiftly on the road to distinction. He was particularly noticed by the celebrated John Hunter, at that time head of the medical department of the army. Mr. Hunter, in conjunction with Dr. Saunders, his first friend and patron, procured for him, upon due qualification, a commission to serve in the army.
Thus starting in life, with good friends entirely of his own procuring, and full of zeal for the service upon which he was entering, Mr. Franklin, in the year 1787, joined the 43d regiment of foot as assistant-surgeon. With this regiment he proceeded to the West Indies, under the command of Sir Charles Grey, the father of the present Earl Grey. In the West Indies, visiting from time to time nearly every one of
the islands in turn of duty, Mr. Franklin laid up a considerable store of professional experience. He remained there upwards of eight years, and saw every malignity of disease raging with the greatest severity. With the danger and arduous character of this service there came also the corresponding reward in a remarkably quick promotion. By the fatal nature of the climate, surgeons as well as their patients were continually falling under the unsparing hand of death. Owing to this circumstance, as well as, at the same time, to one of those fortuitous events which occur in all professions more or less, but particularly in the profession of physic, Mr. Franklin very rapidly rose in his career. There happened to be, in one of the islands, a peculiar case of disease in an individual of high rank, within the sphere of Mr. Franklin's duty : the attendant medical gentlemen were pursuing a course of treatment which was accompanied with very little success. Mr. Franklin, though much junior to the other medical officers, ventured to suggest an entirely different mode; and, even against the advice of his superiors, he maintained the correctness of his own opinion. After some delay, his recommendation was followed; and the patient recovered. This event naturally attracted the attention of the commanding officers, and particularly of Sir Charles Grey; and, very shortly afterwards, Mr. Franklin commenced that advancement in rank which his superior skill so justly merited. In 1790 he was promoted to the surgeoncy of the 15th foot. In 1794 he was appointed Apothecary to the Forces; in 1795, Physician to the Forces, and in 1796, Assistant-Inspector of Hospitals. This was a rapidity of promotion seldom witnessed in the medical department of the army.
Shortly after this last promotion Mr. Franklin was recalled to his native country, but he was not long destined to remain inactive. Towards the close of the eighteenth century the arms of Great Britain were occupied in almost every quarter of the world. Among other expeditions, the Duke of York, then at the head of our army, was actively engaged in
Holland. In such a period it was not likely that any zealous or useful officer should be suffered to remain in idleness. No sooner therefore did Mr. Franklin arrive in England than his services were again demanded. despatched to the army under the Duke of York, and was particularly engaged in the expedition to the Helder Point under Sir Ralph Abercromby. Upon the failure of this expedition in the year 1799 Mr. Franklin once more returned home, having gained the esteem and commendation of the Duke of York, who ever afterwards appreciated most highly his services on this occasion.
Now that a little respite was allowed from the more active duties of his profession, Mr. Franklin repaired to Edinburgh, and proceeded to his degree of M.D. He was also elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in that University, and an honorary Member of the College of Surgeons.
But these peaceful honours were not sufficient to detain him from his more laborious duties in the service of his country. In the year 1802 he was ordered to the Mediterranean, to take the command of the medical staff on that station. On this occasion he was promoted to the rank of Inspector of Hospitals: he remained at the head of the medical department in Malta and Sicily till the year 1810; during which time, as he had before witnessed the diseases peculiar to the tropical climates, he here had occasion to observe those intermediate diseases between the extremes of heat and cold. Nor was he, by any means, disengaged from the more personal dangers and labours of war. In 1806 Sir John Stuart was in the command of the British forces on the Sicilian station. With the very small force which Sir John commanded he could not hope to perform any very important service; but upon receiving information of the march of Regnier to the vicinity of Maida, Sir John Stuart, with 4800 men, hastened to meet the French general. Regnier had taken up a position of such natural strength, that at first it was impossible for the British troops to make any impression.