John Ferriar

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John Ferriar

John Ferriar (1761 near Jedburgh, Roxburghshire – 4 February 1815), was a Scottish physician and a poet, most noted for his leadership of the Manchester Infirmary, and his studies of the causes of diseases such as typhoid. M.D. Edinburgh, 1781; his essay on Massinger reprinted in Gifford's edition (1805); physician of the Manchester Infirmary, 1789–1815; introduced many sanitary reforms when on the Manchester board of health; published works including Medical Histories and Reflections 1792-5-8, and Illustrations of Sterne 1798.

In 1795 he helped to set up a Board of Health in Manchester which rented houses in Portland Street for use as a fever hospital. He described to the Committee for the Regulation of the Police the appalling living conditions of the poor in cellars without lighting, sanitation or ventilation. People newly arrived from the country were particularly vulnerable to fevers [1]

His obituary, published in 1815, read:

Died, on the 4th of February, aged 52, JOHN FERRIAR, M. D. Senior Physician of the Manchester Infirmary. The eminent rank which he held in his profession, not only in that town and its immediate neighbourhood, but through a widely extended district of the surrounding country, was founded on long and general experience of the efficacy of his counsels. He was endowed by nature with an acute and vigorous understanding, which he had matured by a life of diligent study, and of careful and well-digested observation, into a judgment unusually correct and prompt in its decisions. The purposes of his sagacious mind were pursued, also, with a steadiness of determination which generally secured their accomplishment; and unexpected difficulties, in the treatment of diseases, he encountered with firmness, and with great fertility of invention. As a professional author he had obtained a high station, and the world is indebted to him for a large fund of valuable knowledge, conveyed in a style, which, for perspicuity, aud for manly strength and simplicity, deserves to be proposed as a model to medical writers. His character as a polite scholar will be preserved, in the literary annals of his country, by writings, in which he has displayed correct taste, extensive and various readings and original views of the subjects of his investigations. In the relations of private life he will long be remembered as a man of inflexible honour and integrity; a faithful arid steady friend; find a tender and most indulgent parent.[2]

He also published An essay towards a theory of apparitions in 1813 in which he argued that apparitions could be explained by optical illusions.[3]


  1. ^ Brockbank, William (1952). Portrait of a Hospital. London: William Heinemann. p. 28–38.
  2. ^ "Biographical Notice of the Late John Ferriar, M.D." in Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, Vol. 11, 2nd edition (1815) p. 263.
  3. ^ "Review: An Essay towards a Theory of Apparitions by John Ferriar, M. D." The Quarterly Review. 9: 304–312. July 1813.

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