Between Enlightenment And Romanticism: The Case Of Dr. Thomas Beddoes

  • Trevor H. Levere
Part of the Boston Studies In The Philosophy Of Science book series (BSPS, volume 241)

Dr. Thomas Beddoes is the main subject of this essay, but I shall work back to him via Davy, Berzelius, Coleridge, and Ørsted. Beddoes was a figure in the transition in England from the Enlightenment to Romanticism. His official biography, published by a dull doctor called Stock, suppresses almost everything that lent excitement to his life—his political activism, his conflicts with authority, his gift for friendship, his energetic internationalism, his scorn for the establishment, and the exuberant breadth of his intellectual, professional, and frequently radical connections. Besides labouring under suspicion from the Home Office, incurring the hostility of Joseph Banks, expressing enthusiasm for liberty, equality, and fraternity, and wishing for democracy in England, Beddoes was a conduit for European (and especially German) scientific, medical, philosophical, and literary culture. He was also, and to good effect, a patron of brilliant youth. He was physician, friend, co-agitator, and intellectual stimulus to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and, as director of the Pneumatic Institution at Clifton, just outside Bristol in the west of England, provided young Humphry Davy with a high-level entry into his stellar chemical career.


Monthly Review German Literature Creative Imagination Intellectual Engagement Bodleian Library 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    J. E. Stock, Memoirs of the Life of Thomas Beddoes M. D. (London and Bristol, 1811).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    H. Davy, Elements of Chemical Philosophy, Part 1, Vol. 1 (London: J. Johnson, 1812).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Berzelius to Davy, late 1812 or early 1813, translated from Jac. Berzelius Bref, edited by H. G. Söderbaum, vol. 2, correspondence between Berzelius and Sir Humprhy Davy (1808–1825) (Uppsala: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1912), pp. 36–37.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    This episode is presented by Sven Lindroth, “Berzelius and His Time”, in Evan M. Melhado and Tore Frängsmyr, eds., Enlightenment Science in the Romantic Era: The chemistry of Berzelius and its cultural setting (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 9–34 at p. 19.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Prolusiones ad chemiam saeculi decimi noni (Budapest, 1800); Accessiones novae ad prolusionem suam primam et secundam (Budapest [1803]); Darstellung der vier Bestandtheile der anorganischen Natur: Eine Umarbeitung des ersten Theiles siener Prolusionen und Accessionen von dem Verfasser, translated by J. Schuster. See J. R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, vol. 3 (London: Macmillan, 1962), pp. 599–600. See also Anja Skaar Jacobsen, “Between Naturphilosophie and Tradition. Hans Christian Ørsted’s Dynamical Chemistry”, Ph.D. dissertation, Århus University, 2000, which has an important discussion of Winterl as well as of Ørsted, and also her paper “Spirit and Unity: Ørsted’s Fascination by Winterl’s Chemistry”, Centaurus 43 (2001), 184–218.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Lindroth, op. cit.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ørsted, Journal für die Chemie und Physik, edited by A. F. Gehlen, 2 (1806), pp. 509–547.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ibid. in Selected Scientific Works of Hans Christian Ørsted, translated and edited by Karen Jelved, Andrew D. Jackson, and Ole Knudsen (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), pp. 227–242 at p. 229.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ibid. pp. 238–239, referring to Hisinger and Berzelius, Neues allg. Journ. d. Chemie, 1 (1803), pp. 115–119.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    For the relations between Ørsted and Berzelius, see Correspondance de H. C. Örsted avec divers savants, ed. M. C. Harding, 2 vols. (Copenhagen: H. Aschehoug, 1920), vol. 1, pp. 1–75.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    G. Eriksson, “Berzelius and the Atomic Theory”, in Enlightenment Science in the Romantic Era (1992), pp. 56–84 at p. 65.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ørsted, Ansicht der Chemischen Naturgesetze (Berlin, 1812), translated as The Chemical Laws of Nature in Selected Scientific Works of Hans Christian Ørsted, pp. 310–392 at p. 313.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    H. Davy, MS lecture, n.d. but about 1808, quoted in Levere, Affinity and Matter: Elements of Chemical Philosophy 1800–1865 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 33. Ritter’s electrochemical researches have been reprinted: Johann Wilhelm Ritter, Entdeckungen zur Elektrochemie, Bioelektrochemie und Photochemie von Johann Wilhelm Ritter; aus seinen Abhandlungen ausgewählt, eingeleitet und erlautert von Hermann Berg und Klaus Richter (Leipzig : Geest & Portig, 1986), Ostwalds Klassiker der exakten Wissenschaften, Bd. 271. See also Walter D. Wetzels, Johann Wilhelm Ritter, Physik im Wirkungsfeld der deutschen Romantik (Berlin, New York: de Gruyter, 1973), and Stuart Walker Strickland, “Circumscribing science: Johann Wilhelm Ritter and the physics of Sidereal man” Ph.D. Thesis, Harvard University, 1992.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    For a discussion of Coleridge and science, see T. H. Levere, Poetry Realized in Nature: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Early Nineteenth-Century Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Coleridge’s marginalia to Ørsted’s Ansicht are published in The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Marginalia III, edited by H. J. Jackson and George Whalley (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 995–1012; the annotated volume is in the British Library, C43 a17.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    H. Davy, Philosophical Magazine, 38 (1811), pp. 13–18.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Coleridge, Marginalia (n. 2), p. 1001.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Beddoes to Giddy 5 May 1791, Davies Giddy papers, Cornwall Record Office, Truro.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Beddoes to Giddy 18 July 1792, Giddy papers 41/14.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Beddoes to Giddy 19 November 1792, Giddy papers 41/38.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    For the background to these developments, see Dorothy A. Stansfield, Thomas Beddoes M.D. 1760–1808 (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1984); Roy Porter, Doctor of Society : Thomas Beddoes and the Sick Trade in Late-Enlightenment England (London and New York: Routledge, 1992); and T. H. Levere, Chemists and Chemistry in Nature and Society 1770–1878 (Aldershot, Hants., and Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate [Variorum], 1994), essays V–VIII.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Beddoes to Joseph Black 23 February 1788, Edinburgh University Library MS Gen 873/III/71, 72. For background, see The History of the University of Oxford, general editor T.H. Aston, vol. 5, The eighteenth century, edited by L. S. Sutherland and L. G. Mitchell (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Beddoes to Joseph Black 15 April 1791, Edinburgh University Library MS Gen 873/III/200, 201.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    [Thomas Beddoes], A Memorial Concerning the State of the Bodleian Library, and the Conduct of the Principal Librarian, Addressed to the Curators of that Library, by the Chemical Reader, 31 May [1787].Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Ibid. pp. 15–16.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Albrecht von Haller, Elementa physiologiæ corporis humani. (Lausannæ, 1757–1766); the last three vols., 6–8, were subsequently acquired, but from the second edition (Lausanne, 1778).Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Haller, Bibliotheca anatomica, qua scripta ad anatomen et physiologiam facientia a rerum initiis recensentur, 2 vols. (Tiguri, 1774–1777).Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Beddoes, Memorial (1787), p. 10.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Meiners, Grundriss der Theorie und Geschichte der schönen Wissenschaften (Lemgo, 1787).Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    James Engell, The Creative Imagination: Enlightenment to Romanticism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), p. 110.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Robert Lowth, De sacra Poesi Hebræorum prælectiones academicæ Oxonii habitæ.… Subjicitur Metricæ Harianæ brevis Confutatio: et Oratio Crewiana. Editio secunda,. accessionibus secundæ editionis Oxoniensis dilata. Notas et Epimetra adjecit J. D. Michaelis (Goettingæ, 1770).Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    See, e.g. Salomons Prediger und hohes Lied. Neu übersezt mit kurzen erlaüternden Anmerkungen von D. Johann Christoph Do¨derlein (Jena, 1784).Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    This is the main argument of Engell, The Creative Imagination (n. 30, above).Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    See, e.g. T. H. Levere and G. L’E. Turner, eds., Discussing Chemistry and Steam: The Minutes of a Coffee House Philosophical Society 1780–1787 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 9.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    A list of Beddoes’s publications, originally published in J. E. Stock, Memoirs of the Life of Thomas Beddoes M. D. (London and Bristol, 1811), is reprinted in Dorothy A. Stansfield, Thomas Beddoes M.D. 1760–1808 (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1984), pp. 282–284.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    See, e.g. Brian Dolan, “Transferring Skill: Blowpipe Analysis in Sweden and England, 1750–1850”, in Brian P. Dolan, ed., Science Unbound: Geography Space and Discipline (Umeå: Umeå University Press, 1998), pp. 91–125; David Oldroyd, “A Note on the Status of A. F. Cronstedt’s Simple Earths and his Analytical Methods”, Isis 65 (1974), 506–512, and “Some Phlogistic Mineralogical Schemes, Illustrative of the Evolution of the Concept of ‘Earth’ in the 17th and 18th centuries”, Annals of Science 31 (1974), 269–305.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    For a general discussion, see René Wellek, Kant in England (1793–1838).Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Thomas Beddoes, Observations on the Nature of Demonstrative Evidence; with an Explanation of Certain Difficulties occurring in the Elements of Geometry; and Reflections on Language (London: J. Johnson, 1793), pp. 89–96.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Immanuel Kant, Zum ewigen Frieden. Ein philosophischer Entwurf (Königsberg, 1795), reviewed in Monthly Review 20 (1796) (reviewer identified as Beddoes in Benjamin Christie Nangle, The Monthly Review, second series, 1790–1815 : indexes of contributors and articles_(Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1955) ).Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Monthly Magazine, or, British Register 1 (1796), 265–266.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    I was led to this review by Kathleen Coburn, ed., The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. 1 1794–1804, Bollingen Series L (New York: Pantheon Books, 1957), 249n, which erroneously places the review in the Monthly Review.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Monthly Review 21 (2) (1796), p. 515.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    For the role of Kant’s Kritik der Urteilskraft in the development of Blumenbach’s physiology and beyond, see J. Steigerwald, “Lebenskraft in reflection: German perspectives of the late 18th and early 19th centuries”, Ph.D. dissertation, University of London, 1998.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    T. H. Levere, “Dr. Thomas Beddoes and the establishment of his Pneumatic Institution: A tale of three presidents”, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 32 (1977), pp. 41–49 at 44.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Beddoes to Davies Giddy 8 November [1792], Cornwall Record Office, Truro, Davies Giddy papers DG 41/5.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Dundas to the Mayor of Bristol, 2 January 1794, Public Record Office, Home Office papers 43/4.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Thomas Beddoes, “Where would be the harm of a speedy peace?” (Bristol: N. Biggs, 1795).Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Lewis Patton, ed., The Watchman in The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (London and Princeton: Routledge and Kegan Paul, and Princeton University Press, 1970), p. 344n.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Beddoes, “A Word…” (Bristol, 17 November 1795), reprinted in Lewis Patton and Peter Mann, eds., Lectures 1795 On Politics and Religion in The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (London and Princeton: Routledge and Kegan Paul, and Princeton University Press, 1971), pp. 371–384. Coleridge reprinted an “Extract from Dr. Beddoes’s POSTSCRIPT to his Defence of the BILL of RIGHTS against GAGGING BILLS” in The Watchman no. 10, 13 May 1796; it may be found in Lewis Patton, ed., The Watchman in The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (London and Princeton: Routledge and Kegan Paul, and Princeton University Press, 1970), pp. 344–346.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Ibid. pp. 2–5.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Azariah Pinney to William Wordsworth 26 November 1795, quoted in Lectures 1795 On Politics and Religion_(1971) p. xlv.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    John Edmonds Stock, Memoirs of the life of Thomas Beddoes, M.D., with an analytical account of his writings (London: John Murray, 1811.), p. 301.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    John Brown, The Elements of Medicine … Translated from the Latin, with comments and illustrations, by the author. A new edition, revised and corrected. With a biographical preface by Thomas Beddoes, M.D., and a head of the author, etc., 2 vols. (J. Johnson: London, 1795). Coleridge was much interested in Brunonian medicine, as shown by notebook entries while he was in Germany. See, e.g. Kathleen Coburn, ed., The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Vol. 1 1794–1804, Bollingen Series L (New York: Pantheon Books, 1957), entries 388–389 and nn.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    George Whalley, “The Bristol Library Transactions of Southey and Coleridge, 1793–8”, The Library, Transactions of the Bibliographical Society, 5th Series, 4 [1949], 114–131.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Coleridge to Humphry Davy, 4 May 1801, in Earl Leslie Griggs, ed., Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Volume II 1801–1806 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956), p. 726.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    See, e.g. Coleridge to John Hookham Frere, 16 July 1816, in Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Volume IV 1815–1819 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959), p. 656.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Coleridge to Joseph Cottle, [early April 1797], in Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Volume I 1785–1800 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956), pp. 318–319.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Whalley [1949].Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Coleridge to Joseph Cottle, Collected Letters vol. I, pp. 209–210.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Stansfield (1984), p. 1.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Coleridge to Daniel Stuart, [3 January 1809], in Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Volume III 1807–1814 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959), p. 160.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    A Catalogue of the Very Valuable and Extensive Library of Thomas Beddoes, M.D. of Clifton, near Bristol, lately deceased.… which will be sold by auction, by Leigh and S. Sotheby, booksellers, at their House, No. 145, Strand, opposite Catherine Street, On Friday, November 10, 1809, and Nine following Days, (Sundays excepted) at 12 o’Clock_[np, nd], 71 pp. The auctioneer’s copy is listed in the British Library catalogue as Sotheby 60 (2), but has gone astray during or since the move to the new building. I obtained a microfilm of this copy some years ago.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Johann Peter Frank, System einer Medizinischen Polizey, 4 vols. (Manheim, 1784–1788); J. S. Frank, Versuch einer Arzneymittellehre nach Grundsaetzen der Erregungs theorie (Wien, 1803); J. S. Frank, Erläuterungen der Erregungs theorie (Heilbron, 1803); Joseph Frank, Grundriss der Pathologie, nach den Erregungs theorie (Wien, 1803).Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    John Brown, The Elements of Medicine, translated by the author, new edition with biographical preface and introduction by T. Beddoes, 2 vols. (London, 1795). The context is discussed in T. H. Levere, “Dr. Thomas Beddoes: The interaction of pneumatic and preventive medicine with chemistry”, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 7 (1982), 137–147.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Levere, Poetry Realized in Nature (1981), pp. 202–203 and notes.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Cappel, Beurtheilung des Brownischen Systems der Medecin (Göttingen, 1800); Cappel, Beurtheilung des Brownischen Systems (Göttingen, 1797); M. Detten, Vorschlag zur Brownisirung des Organismus (Munster, 1800); Embirn, Pharmacologia Browniana oder Handbuch der Heilmittel (Stuttgart, 1793); von Hogen, Vorzuge der Brownschen Praxis (Ludwigsburg, 1803); A. F. Marcus, Prüfung des Brownschen Systems (Weimar, 1797); A. F. Marcus, Prufung des Brownischen Systems, 2 vols. (Weimar, 1798): C. H. Pfaff, John Brown’s System der Heilkunde (Copenhagen, 1796); A. Röschlaub, Von dem Einflusse der Brownschen Theorie (Wurzburg, 1798).Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    F. L. Augustin, Vom Galvanismus und dessen Medicinischer Anwendung (Berlin, 1801); E. A. Eschke, Galvanische Versuche_(Berlin, 1803); Hellwag & Jacobi, Erfahrungen über die Heilkraefte des Galvanismus (Hamburg, 1802); C. H. Pfaff, Über Thierische Elektricitaet (Leipzig, 1795); F. Pilger, Versuch über den Galvanismus (Giessen & Darmstadt, 1801); C. A. Struve, System der Medicinischen Electriciataets Lehre, 2 vols. in 1, with (Breslau, 1802).Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    J. W. Ritter, Galvanismus (Weimar, 1798); Beytraege zur Kenniss des Galvanismus, 2 vols. in 5 parts (Jena, 1800); System der Körper (Leipzig, 1805).Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Kant, Kritik der reinenVernunft (Riga 1788); Anthropologie in pragmatischer Hinsicht abgefasst (Königsberg, 1798); Der Streit der Facultäten, in drey Abschnitten (Königsberg, 1798); Prolegomena zu einer jeden künftigen Metaphysik die als Wissenschaft wird_auftreten können (Riga, 1783); Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft, Zweyte Auflage (Riga, 1787); Versuch den Begriff der negativen Grössen in die Weltweisheit einzuführen (Königsberg 1763); Beobachtungenüber das Gefühl des Schönen und Erhabenen (Riga 1771); Grundlegen zur Metaphysik der Sitten (Riga, 1786); Lebendigen Kräfte (Königsberg, 1746). For Coleridge’s marginalia, see Coleridge, Marginalia III (n. 15 above), conveniently in the same volume as his marginalia to Ørsted.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    A. D. Snyder, “Books Borrowed by Coleridge from the Library of the University of Göttingen, 1799,” Modern Philology 25 (1928), 377–380.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    For Coleridge and Schiller, see The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: 16. Poetical Works, edited by J. C. C. Mays, 6 vols. (I–III in 6 parts) (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Trevor H. Levere
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations