John Heysham

(1753—1834) physician and demographer

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Heysham was born 22 November 1753 at Lancaster, and died at Carlisle on 23 March 1834. His father was a shipowner, and his mother came from a prominent Westmoreland family. Heysham attended a Quaker school in Westmoreland before serving a five-year apprenticeship with a surgeon. In 1774 he entered the medical college at the University of Edinburgh, where he wrote (in Latin) a thesis on canine rabies. He received his MD degree in 1777. The following year, he started his medical practice in Carlisle. He married in 1789 and was eventually the father of seven children; he survived his wife by some three decades. A public-spirited man, Heysham served as a justice of the peace in Carlisle. He introduced smallpox vaccination to Carlisle, leading the way by vaccinating his own month-old daughter. He worked with the local clergy to establish, in 1782, a clinic for the poor, and he served as its first physician. In the same year, Heysham published a pamphlet describing a recent episode of ‘jail fever’, or typhus, in Carlisle, including recommendations for future treatment of the disease. His biographer, Lonsdale (1870), credits him with ‘an eye for business and money-making’. He was the founder of a cotton-spinning mill and, for a time, the manager of an iron foundry.


From The Biographical Dictionary of British Economists in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Economics.

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