Authorised form of nameLettsom; John Coakley (1744 - 1815); physician and philanthropist
Other forms of nameLettsome; John Coakley
ForenamesJohn Coakley
Dates1744 - 1815
Dates and placesBirth:
Little Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands, Greater Antilles, North and Central America (22 November 1744)
His house, Sambrook Court, Basinghall Street, London, England, United Kingdom (01 November 1815)
The Friends' Burying-ground, Coleman Street, Bunhill Row, London, England, United Kingdom
Physician; author; philanthropist; abolitionist
Research field:
Medicine; natural history; agriculture
Born in a Quaker colony in the Britsh Virgin Islands and sent to school in Lancashire, England age 6; apprenticeship to Yorkshire apothecary and surgeon Abraham Sutcliff (1761-1766); University of Edinburgh (1768); Leyden University, MD (1769); licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians (1770) though excluded from Fellowship as a Quaker
Practiced medicine on Tortola, British Virgin Islands (1767); son of a plantation and slave owner, became an abolitionist and freed the enslaved people he inherited on his father's death (1767); set up a successful medical practice at Basinghall Street, London (from about 1770); wrote for the Gentleman's Magazine under the name of "Mottles"; wrote his medical thesis on the undesirable effects of tea drinking; founder of the Medical Society of London (1773); founder of the General Dispensary; built Grove Hill House, botaical gardens, museum, library and greenhouses in Camberwell (1779), later sold; helped establish the Royal Sea-bathing Infirmary at Margate (1791), for rehabilitation of tuberculous patients; physician to the Camberwell volunteer infantry (1803); wrote on a wide number of subjects including social commentary, education, nutrition and bee keeping as well as medicine; supporter of mass inoculation for smallpox and aided in the foundation of the Society for General Inoculation; involved in the introduction of the mangel-wurzel into agricultural cultivation; predeceased by his son Pickering Lettsom and inherited the fortune his son made in the West Indies shortly before his own death
FSA (1770); Medical Society of London (founder member 1773, President 1775-1776, 1784-1785, 1808-1811 and 1813-1815); Royal Humane Society (founder member 1774); Royal Jennerian Society (for vaccination); Philosophical Society of London (President 1812); American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1788)
Royal Society activityMembership:
Election Date:
RelationshipsSon of Edward Lettsom and Mary nee Coakley; Married (31 July 1770) Anne Miers; father of father-in-law of John Elliot FRS (1811); grandfather of Charles Morgan Elliot FRS (1851); friend of Benjamin Franklin (FRS 1756); enjoyed patronage of John Fothergill MD (FRS 1763)
Published works
Bulloch's Roll; DNB; Wikipedia; UCL LBS
A D Atkinson, 'Dr Johnson and the Royal Society' in NR 1953 vol 10 pp 131-138
N G Coley, 'George Pearson MD, FRS (1751-1828): 'The greatest chemist in England'? in NR 2003 vol 57 pp 161-175
T Pettigrew, 'Memoirs of the life and writings of the late John Coakley Lettsom : with a selection from his correspondence' (London) 1817
'Dr John Coakley Lettsom', Legacies of British Slave-ownership database, [accessed 15th July 2020]
Virtual International Authority File
Royal Society codeNA7114
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
EC/1773/28Lettsom, John Coakley: certificate of election to the Royal Society
IM/002724Lettsom, John Coakleynd
MM/2/2Letter from John Coakley Lettsom, Sambrook House, to Joseph Banks30 December 1783
L&P/8/179Paper, 'History and dissection of an extraordinary introsusception' by John Coakley Lettsom1786
MS/709/33Letter from John Coakley Lettsom, Sambrook Court, , to [James] Sowerby, 2 Mead Place, Lambeth30 March 1813
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