John Ash (physician)

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John Ash
John Ash (1723-1798) colour.jpg
John Ash by Joshua Reynolds (1788)
Born 1723
Coventry, England
Died 18 June 1798
Resting place Kensington Church, London
Nationality English
Alma mater Trinity College, Oxford
Occupation Physician
Known for Founding Birmingham General Hospital

John Ash (1723 – 18 June 1798), was an English physician and founder of Birmingham General Hospital.[1]


Ash was born in Coventry, Warwickshire, the son of a brewer, and was educated at Trinity College, Oxford; was B.A. in 1743, M. A. in 1746, M.B. in 1750, and M.D. in 1754. He settled at Birmingham, and soon acquired a large practice. Birmingham General Hospital was founded chiefly through his influence, and he was its first physician. While actively engaged in practice he became affected with temporary mental derangement, for which it is said he found a cure in the study of mathematics and botany. He was admitted a candidate of the Royal College of Physicians on 22 December 1786, and in the following year resigned his office in Birmingham and removed to London. He became fellow of the College of Physicians on 22 December 1787, and afterwards practised with success in London. He filled the offices of censor of the college in 1789 and 1793; was Harveian orator in 1790, Gulstonian lecturer in 1791, and Croonian lecturer in 1793. He died on 18 June 1798, and was buried in Kensington Church (since rebuilt). His portrait, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, once in the hospital at Birmingham, was acquired by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in 2012.[2] It was engraved by Bartolozzi in 1791. In the picture, above his right elbow is the foundation block of the then medical school, on Holloway Head. This became part of the Accident Hospital, since redeveloped as apartments. He is also commemorated by a blue plaque, affixed to the House of Fraser store in Temple Row, Birmingham.[3]


Dr. Ash is described as a man of great skill in his profession, and of considerable general attainments. He was the founder of a social and literary club, called the Eumelian, from a punning allusion to his own name (Greek έυμελίας or more correctly έῦμμελίης, i.e. with an ashen spear, referred to in Boswell's 'Life of Johnson,' note to the last chapter), and was a Fellow of the Royal Society.

He wrote:

  • 'Experiments and Observations to investigate by Chemical Analysis the properties of the Mineral Waters of Spa, Aix,' &c. 12mo, London, 1788.
  • Oratio Harveiana, 4to, 1790.


  1. ^ William Munk (1861). The roll of the Royal college of physicians. pp. 326–. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  2. ^ "Reynolds portrait bought for Birmingham". Art Fund. 5 October 2012. Retrieved 19 May 2016. 
  3. ^ "John Ash blue plaque in Birmingham". Open Plaques. Retrieved 12 June 2012. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Ash, John (1723-1798)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.