Withering, William, 1741-1799

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1741-03-17
Death 1799-10-06
Britons
English

Biographical notes:

William Withering, botanist and physician, is credited with the introduction of digitalis into the practice of medicine. Withering was born in Wellington, Shropshire, England in 1741. He followed in the medical footsteps of his father who was an apothecary-surgeon. Withering received his degree in 1766 from the University of Edinburgh. Withering published 19 articles during his lifetime. After fighting a long battle with tuberculosis, he died on 6 October 1799, at the age of 58. Digitalis purpurea in the 18th century was a blessing for people with dropsy. At the same time, foxglove concoctions began to appear in an attempt to cure, albeit unsuccessfully, illnesses such as asthma, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, insanity and others. The 18th century brought foxglove into medical light, but it would take several hundred years before its true healing powers could be harnessed completely.

Reference: Hand Kocher, Digitalis Purpurea Cardia Glycoside (http://www.csoll.tamu.edu/FLORA/wilson/481/medbot/bot2.htm).

From the guide to the Withering Letters, 1700-1799, (University of Birmingham Information Services, Special Collections Department)

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Subjects:

  • Botany
  • Medicine Great Britain
  • Sundews Great Britain

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