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Joseph Adams (physician)
Joseph Adams M.D. F.L.S. (1756—20 June 1818) was a British physician and surgeon. His father was a practising apothecary in London, a rigid dissenter, whose religious scruples would not permit him to allow his son to graduate at either of the universities of Oxford or Cambridge. He, however, received a good classical education; and having been apprenticed to his father, became a member of the Society of Apothecaries. He studied under Dr. Pitcairn and Mr. Pott at St. Bartholomew's, Dr. Saunders at Guy's, and Mr. John Hunter at St. George's hospitals. In 1790, he became a member of the Corporation of Surgeons, and in 1795 published a small volume on Morbid Poisons, which being sent to the university of Aberdeen, he thereby obtained a diploma of M.D., and in the following year left London for Madeira, where he resided for eight years, engaged in much practice, and occupied in medical researches. He visited the lazaretto near Funchal, and made himself acquainted with leprosy, yaws, &c.; the information respecting which, he printed in the second edition of his work on Morbid Poisons, by which he is principally known to the medical profession. He has the merit of having introduced the cowpox into Madeira.
He returned to England in 1805, was admitted an extra-licentiate (without examination) of the London Royal College of Physicians; and Dr. Woodville dying in 1806, he succeeded him as physician at the Smallpox Hospital. At this time, the practice of vaccination was slowly recovering from the effects of numerous unfounded attacks by which it had been assailed. A general report was formed under the inspection of Dr. Adams, and circulated by the committee of the hospital, to remove alarm and inspire confidence. This, together with a second report, was communicated to the College of Physicians, printed and circulated, and passed through thirteen editions. The produce of the sale was appropriated to the hospital; a net balance of cash, amounting to 1517l. 16s. 8d., being invested and made available for the general purposes of the institution.
Dr. Adams was a great advocate of the opinion that cowpox and smallpox are one and the same disease. This was the opinion of Dr. Jenner, and has been well established. Dr. Adams drew his arguments in favour of their identity from the near resemblance of the most favourable kinds of smallpox to the cowpox, and presumptive proofs deduced from the laws of other morbid poisons, that the variolous and vaccine is the same. He contended that the character of the disease might be changed by a selection of the pustule from which the inoculation should take place; and that thus selecting cases of what he denominated pearl small-pox, and inoculating from these, similar mild affections ensued, so that it was exceedingly difficult to distinguish these cases from those of cowpox.
Having received in 1804 an accession of private fortune, Dr. Adams was enabled to indulge his taste for study, and also his philanthropy towards his more indigent fellow-creatures. His attachment to his profession was very ardent: besides delivering several courses of lectures, be edited the London Medical and Physical Journal, for many years, with great credit. His death followed a compound fracture of the leg, and took place suddenly and unexpectedly on the 20th June, 1818, at the age of 62. He was buried in Bunhill-fields, with the simple motto of "Vir Justus et bonus," inscribed on his tomb.
He published the following works:
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