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Dr. William Babington, F.R.S., 1756–1833

Nature volume 131, page 613 (29 April 1933) | Download Citation



ON April 30 occurs the centenary of the death of Dr. William Babington, one of the founders of the Geological Society of London, who during his life gained the respect and admiration of all with whom he had come in contact, both by his skill as a physician and by the elevation of his character. Born in Ireland in 1756, at the age of twenty-one he became an assistant surgeon at the Haslar Naval Hospital, and four years later was appointed apothecary to Guy's Hospital, London, of which for some years he was also the physician. Though he made no notable contribution to science, he wrote several acceptable works on chemistry and mineralogy and it was at his house that in 1807 the gathering took place which led to the formation of the Geological Society, the first president of which was that “staunch geological Tory” George Bellas Greenough. Babington himself served as president in 1822 of the Society he had assisted to found. He was also one of the founders of the Hunterian Society. Described by Geikie as “a kindly, bland and courteous veteran”, one of his last public actions before he fell a victim to an epidemic of influenza was to preside over the Priestley centenary celebrations. It was said that history does not recall a physician more loved and respected than Babington, and it was this wide-spread admiration for his character which led to the erection of his statue in St. Paul's Cathedral. The statue is a noble piece of work by Behnes. At his death, Babington was buried in St. Mary Aldermanbury in the City. He left several children and one of his daughters became the wife of Dr. Richard Bright, the discoverer of ‘Bright's disease’.

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