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Significant Scots
Sir William Fordyce


FORDYCE, SIR WILLIAM, F.R.S., a distinguished physician, was a younger brother of David and James Fordyce, whose lives have already been recorded, and was born in the year 1724. Like his brethren, he was educated at the Marischal college, of which he died lord rector. At the age of eighteen, he finished his academic studies, in which he had distinguished himself, particularly by his proficiency in Greek and mathematics, the most solid as well as the most ornamental parts of academic knowledge. Having studied physic and surgery under a native practitioner, he joined the army as a volunteer, and afterwards served as surgeon to the brigade of guards on the coast of France, and in all the military transactions which took place in Germany. The warm support of his military friends co-operated with his own merit in early recommending him to distinguished practice in London. His publications, particularly his treatise on fevers and ulcerated sore throat, greatly extended his fame; and he was sent for to greater distances, and received larger fees, than almost any physician of his time. The wealth which he thus acquired he liberally expended in benevolent actions, and was thus the means of doing much good, as well as some harm. Having patronized his brother Alexander, who was a banker in London, he enabled that individual to enter upon an unusually extensive series of transactions, which, though sound in themselves, exposed him to a malevolent combination of his brethren in trade, and hence the great bankruptcy of Fordyce and Co., which may be termed one of the most important domestic events in Britain during the latter part of the eighteenth century. Besides the losses which Sir William Fordyce thus incurred, he soon after became engaged for ten thousand pounds more, which was lost by his brother in the project of a manufacture which totally failed; and had it not been for the generosity of the Messrs Drummond, bankers, who advanced him the necessary sum, he must have submitted to a loss of personal liberty. Notwithstanding these severe shocks to his fortune,

Sir William continued to maintain two poor families, whom he had taken under his patronage, and who had no other resource. It is also to be mentioned, to the honour of this excellent man, that, besides his own losses by Alexander, he repaid those incurred by his brother James, amounting to several thousand pounds. The benevolence of Sir William Fordyce was a kind of enthusiasm. When he heard of a friend being ill, he would run to give him his advice, and take no fee for his trouble. His house was open to all kinds of meritorious persons in distressed circumstances, and he hardly ever wanted company of this kind. He was also indefatigable in his good offices towards young Scotsmen who had come to London in search of employment. His address had much of the courtly suavity of a past age, and his conversation, while unassuming, was replete with elegant anecdote and solid information. His eye beamed gentleness and humanity, ennobled by penetration and spirit. Although originally of a delicate constitution, by temperance and exercise he preserved his health for many years, but suffered at last a long and severe illness, which ended in his death, December 4, 1792. Sir William, who had been knighted about 1787, wrote a treatise on the Venereal Disease, another, as already mentioned, on Fevers, and a third on Ulcerated Sore Throat; besides which, he published, immediately before his death, a pamphlet on the "Great Importance and Proper Method of Cultivating Rhubarb in Britain for medicinal uses."


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