Benjamin Guy Babington
Biography of Benjamin Guy Babington
Benjamin Guy Babington was the son of the physician William Babington (1756-1833). He was educated at Charterhouse before joining the Royal Navy, serving as midshipman at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1891 as well as at Walcheren.
In 1812, after two years of study at the East India Company's college at Haileybury, Hertfordshire, he entered the Indian service at the presidency of Madras. He obtained such a thorough understanding of Oriental languages and Sanskrit, that already at the age of twenty he was able to publish the first grammar of the Indian language Tanul.
Babington health suffered from the Indian climate, however, and he returned to England. He then studied medicine at Guy's Hospital, London, and Pembroke College, Cambridge, receiving his doctorate from the latter in 1831. He later became a fellow of the College of Physicians.
When cholera first came to England in 1832, he conducted investigations into it and was the first in England to describe the exanthema that is observed with cholera.
In 1837 Babington became assistant physician, at Guy's - ahead of Hodgkin. This aroused a great deal of controversy and acrimonious debate. The treasurer of the hospital said he would have no one at Guy's hospital that was seen in the company of a North American Indian - a reference to Hodgkin's well-known liberal tendencies - he was a founder of the Aborigine Society.
Babington was also probably helped by his family connections; his father had been a physician at Guy's and his sister was Richard Bright's first wife. Babington resigned from Guy's in 1855 following a disagreement with the hospital administration over restriction of access of students to the hospital.
Babington was a member of the board of the Royal Society, and in his quality as member of the Medical Council of the General Board of Health, received several government assignments in investigations. In 1863 he was also president of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society. Having become convinced of the importance of research in epidemics, he in 1850 became founder of the Epidemiological Society, of which he was chairman for many years, and published several valuable papers in its transactions.
Babington was a man of many talents; a skilled sculptor and painter, as well as a linguist and translator of verse; a fine billiard player and a good shot. To Babington, furthering science was more important than gaining personal fame. He was an amiable, sociable character, as well as a highly skilled physician, familiar with all the possibilities available to medical science.
He was one of the first to put Victor Théodore Junod's (1809-1881) hemopsy to use, and invented a curved stethoscope, a hygrometer. He was very clever in using mirrors for investigations of the throat. In 1828 he invented an instrument, which he called the glottiscope for examining the larynx - the first laryngoscope. He was the first to introduce routine indirect laryngoscopy. He wrote on cholera, epilepsy and chorea, and was one of the first to suggest that fibrin was formed in the blood from a more soluble precursor. He died from renal and bladder disease on April 8, 1866.
Well versed in foreign languages, Babington took an interest in translations, and 1833-1836 published four papers from J. F. K. Hecker’s Epidemics of the Middle Ages, which was later expanded, and published by the Sydenham Society. He also published Baron Ernst Von Feuchtersleben’s (1806-1849) Principles of Medical Psychology.