An English Treatise on Living Contagion: Benjamin Marten’s New Theory of Consumptions, 1720

  • Margaret DeLacy

Abstract

DeLacy describes the background of Benjamin Marten’s New Theory of Consumptions (1720): the first full presentation of a theory of contagium vivum in Britain. She discusses the work itself and its possible audience and reception. She also explores Marten’s milieu, including his relationship to the surgeon John Marten, author of scandalous bestsellers on venereal disease and masturbation, and his links to “fringe” practitioners associated with Sloane: in particular the Dutch physician Johannes Groenevelt, a partner in the Oracle clinic. She also reviews several other works on animate pathogenesis, the appropriation of the theory of contagium vivum by a con man in Paris, and the fate of the idea of parasitic pathogens after 1730.

Keywords

Mercury Malaria Antimony Defend Gout 

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Marten, A New Theory of Consumptions (London: 1720), 8. This is now online on the Hathi Trust website at http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009295819. It was first advertised in issue 30 of the Daily Post on November 6, 1719, Gale, Burney Collection Newspapers. I thank the Wellcome Library for access to this. Marten also cites Gideon Harvey’s claim that consumption was contagious (see chapter 2).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Singer, “Benjamin Marten, A Neglected Predecessor of Louis Pasteur,” Janus (1911) 16:81–98, on 82. Singer published large sections from chapter 2 of A New Theory of Consumptions verbatim.Google Scholar
  3. 13.
    Raymond N. Doetsch, “Benjamin Marten and His “New Theory of Consumptions,” Microbiological Reviews (September 1978) 42, no. 3:521–8. I thank Dr. David Zuck for his assistance on Marten’s background.Google Scholar
  4. 15.
    Wallis, Medics s.v. and F. J. G. Robinson and P. J. Wallis, Book Subscription Lists: A Revised Guide (Newcastle Upon Tyne: 1975).Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    David Zuck, personal communication, June 15, 1996. If he had been in practice for twenty years following an apprenticeship and duty in Ireland, he must have begun in 1691. This gives an approximate birth date of 1670. See also Roy Porter, “‘Laying Aside Any Private Advantage’: John Marten and Venereal Disease,” in The Secret Malady: Venereal Disease in Eighteenth-Century Britain and France, ed. Linda E. Merians (Lexington, KY: 1996), 51–67, on 52.Google Scholar
  6. 21.
    Edward Tyson was a strong supporter of the apothecaries and used his position as Censor of the College of Physicians to exercise his influence in their favor. See above, chapter 2, and M. F. Ashley Montagu, Edward Tyson, M. D. F.R.S., 1650–1708 (Philadelphia: 1943), 214. For Tyson’s very persistent defense of Groenevelt, which annoyed his College colleagues, see above and Cook, Trials, 14–16, 146–7, and 154.Google Scholar
  7. 23.
    Harold Cook, “Marten, John (fl. 1692–1737),” ODNB (Oxford: 2004), online at http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/56721.Google Scholar
  8. 25.
    Spinke identified Marten with the author of the book The Charitable Surgeon written by “T.C., Surgeon” and published by Edmund Curll. Curll later printed an advertisement denying that they were the same man. For the rest of the story, see Paul Baines and Pat Rogers, Edmund Curll, Bookseller (Oxford: 2007), 36–7 and 114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 26.
    Raymond Doetsch, “Benjamin Marten’s ‘New Theory of Consumptions,’” Microbiological Reviews (September 1978) 42:521–8, on 526. A “Thomas Spooner, medic” of Lemon Street, London, published “A Short Account of the Itch … ” under the pseudonym of “T.S.” in 1714 (London: T. Child) and was a frequent advertiser of various remedies. This short work and Spooner’s A Compendious Treatise of the Diseases of the Skin went through many editions. See Philip K. Wilson, Surgery, Skin and Syphilis, Daniel Turner’s London (1667–1741), (Clio Medica 54) (Amsterdam: 1999), 63, and Wallis, Medics, under “Spooner.”Google Scholar
  10. 32.
    James G. Donat, “The Rev. John Wesley’s Extractions from Dr. Tissot: A Methodist Imprimatur,” History of Science (2001) 19:285–98. See also Michael Stolberg, “Self-pollution, Moral Reform and the Venereal Trade: Notes on the Sources and Historical Context of Onania (1716),” Journal of the History of Sexuality (January–April 2000) 9, no. 1–2:37–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 43.
    The Grounds of Physick, Containing so Much of Philosophy, Anatomy, Chimistry, and the Mechanical Construction of a Humane Body as is Necessary to the Accomplishment of a Physitian … (London: 1715). References are to this edition. A second English translation of Groenevelt’s 1715 Latin text appeared in 1753 under the title The Rudiments of Physick (Sherborne and London). See also Harold Cook, “Physick and Natural History in Seventeenth-Century England,” in Revolution and Continuity: Essays in the History and Philosophy of Early Modern Science, eds. Peter Barker and Robert Ariew (Washington, DC: 1991), 63–80, on 75.Google Scholar
  12. 53.
    Richard Mead, De Imperio Solis ac Lunae in Corpora Humana, & Morbis inde Oriundis (1704), trans. by Thomas Stack as A Treatise concerning the Influence of the Sun and Moon upon Human Bodies and the Diseases Thereby Produced (London: 1748), 61–2. Mead spells his name “Groenvelt.”Google Scholar
  13. 59.
    Wallis, Medics, “Martin, Benjamin, medic”; F. J. G. Robinson and P. J. Wallis, Book Subscription Lists; P. J. Wallis and Ruth Wallis, Book Subscription Lists Extended Supplement to the Revised Guide (Newcastle: 1996). The books were on music and history.Google Scholar
  14. 61.
    Marten, New Theory 2nd ed. (London: 1722), preface, xi. I thank the Countway Library, Harvard University, for a photocopy of this rare preface.Google Scholar
  15. 62.
    Porter, “John Marten,” in Merians, Secret Malady offers an analysis of John Marten’s rhetoric. “Dr. Marten’s” drops for Gleets were still sold on Fleet Street in 1748. See Roy Porter, “Lay Medical Knowledge in the Eighteenth Century: The Evidence of the Gentleman’s Magazine,” Medical History (1985) 29:138–68, Appendix: Table of Proprietary Medicines (Pharmacopoeia Empirica) from the Gentleman’s Magazine (1748) 18:348–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 64.
    Charles F. Mullett, “Physician vs. Apothecary, 1669–1671,” Scientific Monthly (1939) 49, no. 6:558–65.Google Scholar
  17. 65.
    Examples can be found in P. S. Brown, “Medicines Advertised in Eighteenth-Century Bath Newspapers,” Medical History (1976) 20:152–68. John Fother-gill’s name was stolen for an entire book, Rules for the Preservation of Health by J. Forthergell [sic]. On alchemical medicine and the creation of proprietary medicines, see also Paul Kléber Monod, Solomon’s Secret Arts (New Haven: 2013), 125–34. On the marketing of remedies see Roy Porter, Health for Sale: Quackery in England, 1660–1850 (Manchester: 1989).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 66.
    See Marjorie H. Nicolson, “Ward’s ‘Pill and Drop’ and Men of Letters,” Journal of the History of Ideas (1968) 29:177–96. Ward’s pill contained antimony; his drop included mercury. Antimony, a poison introduced into common medical use by Paracelsus, could reduce fevers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 68.
    Cockburn, who had left Leyden without a degree in 1693, obtained his License from the College of Physicians in 1694, and an MD from Aberdeen in 1697. He was elected an FRS in 1696. See Charles Creighton, “Cockburn, William (1669–1739),” rev. Anita Guerrini, ODNB (Oxford: 2004), online at http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/5777. For Dover’s criticism of Cockburn’s secrecy, see Philip K. Wilson, “Exposing the Secret Disease: Recognizing and Treating Syphilis in Daniel Turner’s London,” in Merians, Secret Malady, 76.Google Scholar
  20. 70.
    Andreas-Holger Maehle, Drugs on Trial: Experimental Pharmacology and Therapeutic Innovation in the Eighteenth Century (Clio Medica 53) (Amsterdam: 1999), esp. 76–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 71.
    Richard Barnett, “Dr Jacob de Castro Sarmento and Sephardim in Medical Practice in 18th Century London,” Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England (1978–80) 27:84–114, on 88. De Castro Sarmento became the physician to the household of successive Portuguese Ambassadors in London and sought to popularize Newtonian science in Portugal through his editions and works in Portuguese. For his connection to Sloane, see above, chapter 6.Google Scholar
  22. 72.
    Alex Sakula, “The Doctors Schomberg and the Royal College of Physicians: An Eighteenth Century Shemozzle,” Journal of Medical Biography 2 (1994) 113–19, on 115.Google Scholar
  23. 77.
    See Roy Porter, “The Early Royal Society,” in The Medical Revolution of the Seventeenth Century, eds. Roger French and Andrew Wear (Cambridge: 1989), 272–93, esp. 283–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 78.
    See chapter 2 for the members of the Oracle group. For venereology as a “fringe” profession, see W. F. Bynum, “Treating the Wages of Sin: Venereal Disease and Specialism in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” in Medical Fringe and Medical Orthodoxy, 1750–1850, eds. W. F. Bynum and Roy Porter (London: 1987), 5–28. Venereology was one of the few specialties that focused on a disease widely agreed to be contagious.Google Scholar
  25. 80.
    Harold J. Cook, “Pechey, John (bap. 1654, d. 1718),” ODNB (Oxford: 2004), online at http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/21737. See also C. J. S. Thompson, The Quacks of Old London (New York: 1993), 134–5, and Porter, Health for Sale, 5, 80, 190, and 194.Google Scholar
  26. 81.
    Harold J. Cook, “Browne, Richard (1647/8–1693/4?),” ODNB (Oxford: 2004) online edn, May 2005 at http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/3694, accessed April 26, 2014.Google Scholar
  27. 82.
    M. M. Goldsmith, “Mandeville, Bernard (bap. 1670, d. 1733),” ODNB (Oxford: 2004), online at http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/17926. See also same, Private Vices, Public Benefits: Bernard Mandeville’s Social and Political Thought (Bambridge: 1985).Google Scholar
  28. 85.
    This excludes works on sex or less circumspect books on gynecology. See for example C. A. Baragar, “John Wesley and Medicine,” Annals of Medical History (1928) 10:59–63, and C. J. Lawrence, “William Buchan, Medicine Laid Open,” Medical History (1975) 19:20–35.Google Scholar
  29. 86.
    Singer was not the first to stumble on Marten’s work and be transfixed. In “The Germ Theory,” in the American Monthly Microscopical Journal (September 1891) 12:205–6, “E.H. Griffith” (probably Ezra Hollace Griffith, a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society) described a first edition he found “while visiting an old Curiosity Shop at the foot of Pike’s Peak, Colorado.” He added that he did not recall anyone who knew the “Germ Theory” had been propounded before 1865 and quoted chunks of the book. Griffith’s own article was reprinted twice in local medical publications and then apparently disappeared from scholarly knowledge until being swept up by a Google scanner.Google Scholar
  30. 89.
    Benjamin Franklin, ms. letter to Samuel Mather, Passy, May 12, 1784, Massachusetts Historical Society, online at http://www.masshist.org/database/533. See also I. Bernard Cohen, Benjamin Franklin’s Science (Cambridge, MA: 1996), 174. The visit took place in 1724, shortly before Franklin left for England, where Mandeville would befriend him.Google Scholar
  31. 91.
    Edward Barry, A Treatise on Consumptions (London: 1727), 273.Google Scholar
  32. 97.
    A Natural and Medicinal History of Worms Bred in the Bodies of Men and Other Animals; Taken from the Authorities, and Observations of all Authors … from Hippocrates to this Time … trans. by Joseph Browne (London: 1721), online from Google Books. This first appeared as Historia Naturalis et Medica Latorum Lubricorum (Geneva: 1715).Google Scholar
  33. 103.
    William Bulloch refers to this work in his History of Bacteriology (New York: 1979), 32, and reproduces drawings of some of the insects on 33.Google Scholar
  34. 107.
    Jean Astruc, De Morbis Venereis, trans. as A Treatise of Venereal Diseases, in Nine Booksfrom the Last Latin Edition Printed at Paris, vol. 1 (London: 1754), online from ECCO. The first English translation, which I have not seen, appeared in 1737. Some library catalogues describe the author of the Système as “Robert Boyle” or state that the Système is mistakenly attributed to the chemist Robert Boyle, but Astruc does not give a first name.Google Scholar
  35. 109.
    Astruc, De Morbis Venereis, 127–8. See also Catherine Wilson, The Invisible World: Early Modern Philosophy and the Invention of the Microscope (Princeton: 1995), 170–1.Google Scholar
  36. 110.
    The best account seems to be H. F. A. Peypers, “Un Ancien Pseudo-Précurseur de Pasteur ou Le ‘Système d’un Médecin Anglois sur la Cause de Toutes les Maladies’, (1726),” Janus (1896/7) 1: 57–66, 121–31, 251–62.Google Scholar
  37. 112.
    In addition to the widely read work of Astruc above, see for example, Herman Boerhaave, Methodus Studii Medici, ed. Albert Haller (Amsterdam: 1751), 2:653, “This work scarcely deserves mention, because the author fraudulently demonstrated with a microscope insects hidden in the blood to credulous [people], to which [insects] he attributed all human diseases and the cure through their being devoured by other insects. The fraud was clearly exposed by Valisneri vol. III p. 217 and [by] anonymous in a Letter to Mr. Astruc in the Journal des Savants, 1740,” [my trans.]. See also Catherine Wilson, Invisible World, 223–4. The “Lettre à M. JAtruc” is in the Journal des Sçavans, (March 1740), 375–85, online from Google.Google Scholar
  38. 113.
    Remi Kohler, “Nicolas Andry de Bois-Regard (Lyon 1658-Paris 1742): The Inventor of the Word ‘Orthopedics’ and the Father of Parasitology,” Journal of Childhood Orthopedics (August 2010) 4, no. 4:349–55, published online April 15, 2010, doi: 10.1007/s11832-010-0255-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 114.
    This author should be distinguished from the later Pierre Desault who became famous as a Parisian surgeon. The elder Desault’s book was entitled “Dissertation sur les Maladies Vénériennes … Avec Deux Dissertations, l’Une sur la Rage, l’Autre sur la Phtisie …” (Bordeaux: 1733, Paris: 1738). It was granted an imprimatur by Andry and was translated by John Andree as A Treatise on the Venereal Distemper … with Two Dissertations: The First on Madness from the Bite of Mad Creatures; The Second on Consumptions … (London: 1738). Andree’s translation, which I have used, was dedicated to Daniel Turner, see 10–12. It is online from ECCO.Google Scholar
  40. 121.
    Sloane suffered a disabling stroke at the age of 79 in 1739. Though he didn’t retire as President of the Royal Society until 1741, his activity and influence were waning by 1740. For Andree’s investigation of hemlock, see Susan Lawrence, Charitable Knowledge: Hospital Pupils and Practitioners in Eighteenth-Century London (Cambridge: 1996), 214–6, 246–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 122.
    He was also a surgeon to the workhouse in St. Clement’s Dane about 1780, Kevin P. Siena, Venereal Disease, Hospitals and the Urban Poor: London’s ‘Foul Wards’ 1600–1800 (Rochester: 2004), 26.Google Scholar
  42. 127.
    Between 1700 and 1738, 746 English-speaking students matriculated at Leyden. Of those, 55 became members of the College of Physicians: 28 became Fellows, 14 became Licentiates, and 12 Extra-Licentiates. Four of the Leyden-educated Fellows became President of the College. Forty-five became FRS. E. Ashworth Underwood, Boerhaave’s Men at Leyden and After (Edinburgh: 1977), 20, 135, and 149.Google Scholar

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