William Penny Brookes

(1809—1895) surgeon and campaigner for the revival of the Olympic games

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(1809–95) An enthusiast for the notion of the revival of the ancient Olympic Games. Son of a surgeon and a surgeon himself in turn, Brookes was born in Much Wenlock, Shropshire, and studied medicine in London, Padua, and Paris, taking over his father's practice in his hometown in 1831. Covering a large rural area, Brookes was known to ride up to seventy miles a day on his medical duties. Botanist and linguist, and master of Greek, French, and Latin, Brookes was also interested in the benefits of physical education. An active citizen in Much Wenlock, he is most famous for combining his classicist and physical educational interests into annual games, beginning in 1849, ‘for literary and fine-art attainments, and for skill and strength in athletics’. These were expanded into the Shropshire Olympian games (1861), and Brookes and others went on to form the National Olympian Society (1865), whose first games were held at Crystal Palace in 1866, attracting over 10,000 spectators. It has been stated that this prompted the formation of the Amateur Athletic Club (later Association). Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, visited the Wenlock Olympian Games in 1890, after Brookes responded to de Coubertin's newspaper announcement in the English press promoting his Paris Congress on Physical Training, and has acknowledged the vision of Brookes, and its influence upon his own thinking.

From A Dictionary of Sports Studies in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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