Thomas Beddoes

On this date in 1760, physician and scientific writer Thomas Beddoes was born in Shifnal, England. He attended Bridgnorth Grammar School for his secondary education before moving to Oxford, where he attended Pembroke College, a constituent of the University of Oxford.

Upon completing his undergraduate studies, Beddoes enrolled in the University of Edinburgh Medical School, where he was taught chemistry and medicine. He met his wife Anna while working at the Bristol Pneumatic Institution, a medical research facility searching for a cure to tuberculosis. They had one son, Thomas Lovell Beddoes, who became a well-known British poet and playwright.

In 1788, the University of Oxford appointed Beddoes professor of chemistry. He taught at the school for six years during the French Revolution before resigning. During this time, his lectures made radical medical claims that drew attention from large audiences. Beddos hoped to extend Joseph Priestley‘s ideas on treating disease by the therapeutic inhalation of different gases and vapors. He contributed significantly to the British Enlightenment, but left Oxford after recognizing that his ideas were not welcomed by all.

Beddoes stressed the importance of imagination as it arises from one’s senses and criticized the use of religious maxims as teaching material. He believed that the source of children’s knowledge should come from learning natural history and studying natural objects themselves. He also speculated that our religious beliefs are a product of our environment and governance. D. 1808.

Freedom From Religion Foundation