Henry Burton (physician)

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Henry Burton
Born 27 February 1799
Died 10 August 1849
Nationality British
Education Tonbridge School
Alma mater Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, St Bartholomew's Hospital
Occupation Physician, Chemist.
Known for Burton line
Spouse(s) Mary Elizabeth Poulton (m.1826). (No issue).
Relatives William Ford Burton (brother), Decimus Burton (brother), James Burton (Egyptologist) (brother).

Dr. Henry Burton FRCP (27 February 1799 – 10 August 1849) was an eminent British physician and chemist, who is famous for his identification of blue discolouration of the gums, the eponymous Burton line, as a symptom of lead poisoning.


Henry Burton was a son of the preeminent London property developer James Burton (property developer) and his wife Elizabeth Westley (1761 – 1837) and the brother of the gunpowder manufacturer William Ford Burton, the eminent architect Decimus Burton , and the pioneering Egyptologist James Burton (Egyptologist).

As the Cambridge Alumni Database identifies,[1] some sources, including the entry for Henry Burton in the Royal College of Physicians’s Lives of the Fellows,[2] incorrectly state that Henry Burton was the son of one ‘John Burton’. This is incorrect: he was the son of the aforementioned James Burton (property developer).[1][3]

On his father's side, his great-great grandparents were Rev. James Haliburton (1681–1756) and Margaret Eliott, daughter of Sir William Eliott, 2nd Baronet and aunt of George Augustus Eliott, 1st Baron Heathfield. Decimus was descended from John Haliburton (1573–1627), from whom Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet could trace his descent on the maternal side. He was a cousin of the American judge and author Thomas Chandler Haliburton and thence of the lawyer and anthropologist Robert Grant Haliburton and Arthur Lawrence Haliburton, 1st Baron Haliburton.[3][4][5]


Henry was educated at Tonbridge School, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, at which he received the degrees MB, ML, MD, BS, and FRCP,[1][2] and later at St Bartholomew's Hospital.[1]

He went to sea on the 98-gun HMS Boyne before resigning from the Navy and entering the Gunpowder Office.[3] He became Professor of Chemistry at St Thomas' Hospital, in September 1825[1][2] and later Senior Physician. He was appointed Censor of the Royal College of Physicians in 1838 and later was appointed Consiliarius[1][2] He is famous for his discovery that a blue line on the gums, the eponymous Burton line, is a symptom of lead poisoning.[2][6][7]


Henry Burton married Mary Elizabeth, eldest daughter of William Poulton of Maidenhead, at St. George's, Bloomsbury, in 1826. She died in 1829, without issue, and Henry did not remarry.[3] Henry lived at 41 Jermyn Street, London,[1] and 58 Marina, St Leonards.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Burton, Henry (BRTN821H)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Royal College of Physicians, Lives of the Fellows: Munk’s Roll, Volume IV, p.8, Henry Burton". Royal College of Physicians. Retrieved 17 March 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Diary of James Burton, Hastings Museum. 
  4. ^ J. Manwaring Baines F.S.A., Burton’s St. Leonards, Hastings Museum , 1956.
  5. ^ "Haliburton [Haleburton; formerly Burton], James (1788–1862), Egyptologist". 
  6. ^ Riva MA, Lafranconi A, D'Orso MI, Cesana G (2012). "Lead Poisoning: Historical Aspects of a Paradigmatic Occupational and Environmental Disease". Saf Health Work. 3 (1): 11–6. PMC 3430923Freely accessible. PMID 22953225. doi:10.5491/SHAW.2012.3.1.11. 
  7. ^ Pearce J.M.S. (2007). "Burton's line in lead poisoning". Eur. Neurol. 57 (2): 118–119. PMID 17179719. doi:10.1159/000098100. Retrieved 2009-03-21.