Thomas Frewen (physician)

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For other people named Thomas Frewen, see Thomas Frewen (disambiguation).

Thomas Frewen, M.D. (1704–1791), was an English physician.

Career and works[edit]

He practised as a surgeon and apothecary at Rye, Sussex, and afterwards as a physician at Lewes, having obtained the M.D. degree previous to 1755. He became known as one of the first in England to adopt the practice of inoculation against small-pox. In his essay on The Practice and Theory of Inoculation he narrates his experience in three hundred and fifty cases, only one having died by the small-pox so induced. The common sort of people, he says, were averse to inoculation, and "disputed about the lawfulness of propagating diseases"—the very ground on which small-pox inoculation (variolation) was made illegal in 1840. "The more refined studies of our speculative adepts in philosophy", he says, "have let them into the secret that the small-pox and many other diseases are propagated by means of animalcula hatched from eggs lodged in the hairs, pores, &c. of human bodies".

In the year of 1759, he published another short essay on small-pox, Reasons against an opinion that a person infected with the Small-pox may be cured by Antidote without incurring the Distemper. The opinion was that of Boerhaave, Cheyne, and others, that the development of small-pox after exposure to infection could be checked by a timely use of the æthiops mineral. Frewen's argument was that many persons ordinarily escape small-pox "who had been supposed to be in the greatest danger of taking it", and that the æthiops mineral was irrelevant. His other work, Physiologia (Lond. 1780), is a considerable treatise applying the doctrines of Boerhaave to some diseases. One of his principles is: "Wherever nature has fixed a pleasure, we may take it for granted she there enjoins a duty; and something is to be done either for the individual or for the species".

He died at Northiam in Sussex, on 14 June 1791, aged 86.

References[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Frewen, Thomas". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.