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BALY, William (1814-1861) and Family

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0113 MS-BALYW
Held at: Royal College of Physicians
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Full title: BALY, William (1814-1861) and Family
Date(s): 1807-1878
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 volume; 4 boxes
Name of creator(s): Baly | William | 1814-1861 | physician


Administrative/Biographical history:

William Baly was born in King's Lynn, Norfolk, in 1814. He was educated at the local grammar school, and was apprenticed in 1828 to Mr (later Dr) Ingle, an esteemed general practitioner in the town of Emsworth. In 1831 he went to study at University College, London, and in 1832, at St Bartholomew's Hospital. In 1834, after passing the diplomas of the Royal College of Surgeons and the Society of Apothecaries, Baly went to Paris, Heidelberg, and Berlin to continue his studies. He graduated MD from Berlin in 1836.

He returned to England and set up practice in London, first at Vigo Street and then Devonshire Street, whilst there he held, for a short time the post of Medical Officer to the St Pancras Infirmary, and finally Brook Street. His translation of Johannes Peter Muller's Elements of Physiology (1838-42) was his first accomplishment to attract attention, occupying the first four years of his time in London.

In 1840 he was appointed to visit and report on the state of the Millbank Penitentiary, where dysentery was prevalent. In the following year he was made physician to the Penitentiary, and came to be regarded by the Government as a leading adviser on questions of prison hygiene. It was also in 1841 that he became lecturer in forensic medicine at St Bartholomew's. His work in the Penitentiary led to a number of reports, including the elaborate paper `Diseases in Prisons', published in the Medico-Chirurgical Transactions (vol. XXVIII, 1845), and provided the material for his Goulstonian Lectures on Dysentery, given to the Royal College of Physicians in 1847. He had been elected Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1846, and in 1847 Fellow of the Royal Society. Baly proved he was the first to observe that dysenteric sloughs in the large intestine may be associated with the ulcers of enteric fever in the small intestine. He later produced his Report on Epidemic Cholera (1854) for the College.

In 1854 he was made assistant physician at St Bartholomew's, and in 1855 he relinquished his lectureship in order to become joint lecturer on medicine, with Dr (later Sir) George Burrows, fellow physician.

Baly was appointed physician extraordinary to Queen Victoria, in 1859, to work alongside Sir James Clark, the Queen's physician, and to then attend alone the Queen and the Royal Family. He was subsequently nominated to the General Medical Council as Crown Representative. He was also Censor for the Royal College of Physicians, 1858-59. By this stage Baly had become `one of the brightest ornaments of the medical profession' (DNB, vol. III, p.99).

Baly's life and career however were brought to a sudden, tragic, end by his death in a railway accident, just south west of London, on 28 January 1861. The Royal College of Physicians instituted a gold medal, to be awarded biennially in his name, for distinction in physiology.

Elements of Physiology, Translation with Notes by William Baly, author: Johannes Peter Muller, translator: William Baly (2 vols. London, 1838-42)
`Diseases in Prisons', Medico-Chirurgical Transactions, (vol. XXVIII, 1845)
Recent Advances in the Physiology of Motion, the Senses, Generation, and Development. Being a Supplement to the 2nd Volume of Professor Muller's "Elements of Physiology" (London, 1848)
Reports on Epidemic Cholera (2 parts) (London, 1854)


Scope and content/abstract:

Correspondence and papers created by William Baly and his family; Francis Baly, his mother, William Baly, his father, Frances (Fanny) Shipp, nee Baly, and Elizabeth (Bessy) Baly, his sisters, 1807-1878. Includes correspondence between Baly and members of his family and friends, and between members of his family about Baly, spanning Baly's life and career. Also includes papers, notes and correspondence relating to Baly's professional career, his years as a student in London and then in France and Germany, 1831-36; his various appointments, from his early apprenticeship to a general practitioner in 1828 to his appointment as physician extraordinary to the Queen in 1859, such as indentures detailing appointments and a volume of testimonials supporting Baly's appointment as Assistant Physician at St Bartholomew's Hospital, 1854; his licence and diploma for the Royal College of Physicians; a portrait of Baly by one of his sisters; photographs; obituaries; material relating to the Baly Memorial Fund; and genealogical notes on the Baly family.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

All requests should be referred to the Archivist

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Most of the collection was presented by Dr F.H.H. Guillemard on 2 October 1926 and 13 April 1931; Part of the collection was presented by Sir Humphry Rolleston on 2 December 1929; The provenance of the testimonials is unknown

Allied Materials

Related material:

There are references to Baly in the College's own records, including a letter from Elizabeth Baly regarding Baly's coat of arms in correspondence about the College's armorial window, 1887 (MS1094/8); Correspondence enclosing the draft report of the Charter Committee, referring to Baly's approval of the report, 1860, in the Charter Committee Reports, 1853-60 (MS2020/39); Letters relating to the Baly Medal in the College's Autographed Letters Collection (ALS), and correspondence regarding the founding and regulation of the medal (MS1009/1-3).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: The Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London, 1826-1925, compiled by G.H. Brown (London, 1955) [Munk's Roll, vol. IV, p.45]; Dictionary of National Biography, vol. III, Leslie Stephen (ed.) (London, 1885) [DNB, vol. III, p.99]; `Obituary - Dr William Baly', Medical Times & Gazette, 9 February 1861, pp.150-51
Compiled by Katharine Williams

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
March 2003

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