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LATHAM, John (1761-1843)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0113 MS-LATHJ
Held at: Royal College of Physicians
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Full title: LATHAM, John (1761-1843)
Date(s): [1797]-1811
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 4 volumes
Name of creator(s): Latham | John | 1761-1843 | physician


Administrative/Biographical history:

John Latham was born on 29 December 1761, at Gawsworth, Cheshire, the eldest son of the Rev. John Latham, vicar of Siddington, Cheshire. Latham acquired his early education at Manchester Grammar School. In 1778 he entered Brasenose College, Oxford. He proceeded BA in 1782, and MA in 1784. Between 1782 and 1784 he studied medicine at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. In 1784 he began to practice medicine in Manchester, where he was elected physician to the town's infirmary. In 1786 he resigned the office and returned to Oxford where he graduated MB in the same year. The following year he was appointed physician to the Radcliffe Infirmary and graduated MD in 1788.

In 1788 Latham moved to London and set up his home and practice in Bedford Row. His exertions on settling in the capital were excessive, and he consequently established a large, lucrative practice. He was admitted a candidate of the Royal College of Physicians in the same year, and became a fellow in 1789. It was also in 1789 that he was elected physician of the Middlesex Hospital and the Magdalen Hospital. From his election as fellow he played an active roll in the life of the College, for example acting as censor on several occasions between 1790 and 1807. In 1791 he published A Plan of a Charitable Institution to be Established on the Sea Coast. In 1792 Latham undertook to arrange the College library, the result proved so satisfactory that his colleagues voted him the sum of 100. In 1793 he resigned from the Middlesex and became physician to St Bartholomew's Hospital.

Latham gave several of the eponymous lectures of the Royal College of Physicians, including the Goulstonian Lectures in 1793, the Harveian Oration in 1794, and the Croonian Lectures in 1795. In 1795 he was appointed physician extraordinary to the Prince of Wales. The following year Latham published On Rheumatism and Gout, in which he detailed an elaborate treatment and argued that neither acute rheumatism nor gout were hereditary. In 1802 Latham retired from his position at St Bartholomew's.

In 1807, at the age of 46, Latham retired to the country, due to exhaustion brought on by his intense labour. It was believed that he was consumptive and that he might die. However away from his professional business he regained his health and eventually recovered. He returned to London and began a more moderate practice, based in Harley Street.

In 1811 Latham published Facts and Opinions concerning Diabetes, and authored many medical papers which were published in the Royal College of Physicians's Medical Transactions. His writings `show that the parts of physic in which he excelled were clinical observation and acquaintance with the materia medica' (DNB, 1892, p.166). Latham was President of the College from 1813-19. In 1816 he founded the Medical Benevolent Society. When the Prince of Wales ascended to the throne as George IV in 1820, Latham was reappointed physician extraordinary.

In 1829 Latham finally left London and retired to Bradwall Hall in Cheshire. He had married Mary Mere in 1874, and they had had three sons. Their second son Peter Mere Latham, born in 1789, also became a physician, whilst the first and third sons, John and Henry, were both poetical writers. Latham died on 20 April 1843 at the age of 81, after suffering from stones in the bladder.

Diatribae duae encaemicae coram Collegio Regali Medicorum Londinensi, scilicet Oratio Harveiana et Praelectio Crooniana (London, 1795?)
On Rheumatism and Gout: A Letter Addressed to Sir George Baker (London, 1796)
The New Pharmacopoeia of the Royal College of Physicians (index by John Latham) (London, 1796, 7th edition; 1801 8th edition)
Facts and Opinions concerning Diabetes (London, 1811)


Scope and content/abstract:

Latham's papers, c.1797-1811, include his notebooks on food and digestion, materia medica and therapeutics, c.1797-1811, and his unpublished dissertation on asthma, in his hand, c. 1810.

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:

One of Latham's notebooks, on materia medica and therapeutics, was given to Dr J.A. Ormerod, Latham's grandson, by Mrs Elizabeth Latham.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Notebook in the possession of Dr J.A. Ormerod was presented by him to the Royal College of Physicians, in 1914; The provenance of the rest of the collection is unknown.

Allied Materials

Related material:

There is material amongst the College's own papers relating specifically to College business undertaken by Latham in his role as president. This includes letters to Latham from James Clough regarding a paper given by Clough at the College, 1813-14 (MS1045/44-45); Correspondence between Latham and the Privy Council about Sir William Pym's book on yellow fever, 1815 (MS4117/1-4); Correspondence about Matthew Baillie's donations of specimens to the College Museum, 1819 (MS2001/1); Correspondence and papers relating to the College's move from Warwick Lane to Pall Mall East in 1825, including Latham's signature to resolutions regarding the sale of the building, 1815-22 (MS1097/33, 35, 37, 46; MS1098/11).

There is also material relating to Latham's professional work as a physician and a fellow of the College, including his catalogue of the College Library, 1827 (MS2000/149); Reference is made to a paper by Latham in a letter from Pelham Warren to Francis Hawkins about the evening meetings at the College, 1831 (MS1045/6). There are also a number of Latham's letters amongst the College's autographed letters collection (ALS).

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; Comprising Biographical Sketches, Vol. II, 1701-1800, William Munk (London, 1878) [Munk's Roll, 1878, pp.393-95]; Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. XXXII, Sidney Lee (ed.) (London, 1892) [DNB, 1892, pp.165-67]; `Dr Latham', Peter Mere Latham, London Medical Gazette, Vol. XXXII, 1843, pp.212-13.
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:
Compiled July 2003; Modified September 2003

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