Record

Ref NoDEP/NIF
TitleCollection of Francis Nicholls
DescriptionNicholls can probably be identified with the Francis Nicholls who was baptized on 19 January 1699 at the church of St Andrew's, Holborn. He was educated at a private school in the country and at Westminster School before entering Exeter College, Oxford, on 4 March 1715. He graduated BA on 14 November 1718, MA on 12 June 1721, MB on 16 February 1725, and MD on 16 March 1730.

While at university, Nicholls practised dissection at every opportunity. He was appointed reader in anatomy at the university and probably began lecturing in 1719. At the end of each course he went to London to study with public lecturers in anatomy there. He also travelled on the continent, attending Winslow's lectures in Paris and visiting Morgagni and Santorinus in Italy. Upon his return to England, probably in the mid-1720s, he began a medical practice in Cornwall. However, he soon abandoned this and moved to London to teach anatomy.

In 1732 he published in Oxford his Compendium anatomicum, a detailed syllabus of his lectures, amended and expanded in 1733, 1736, and 1740. Nicholls was among the first to lecture on the minute anatomy of the tissues, and he was especially interested in the structure of the blood vessels. Before the Royal Society he demonstrated how an aneurysm could be produced in an artery when its inner coats were ruptured, while the outer remained intact. He also suggested the relationship between the nerves and blood pressure. Anatomists admired his skill in making 'corroded' anatomical preparations, in which part of an organ could be displayed by removing surrounding structures. Nicholls is often credited as the inventor of this technique, but William Cowper and Govart Bidloo had used it before him.

Nicholls was elected a candidate of the Royal College of Physicians of London on 30 September 1730 and a fellow on 26 June 1732. Early in 1749, however, upon the death of one of the elects of the college, a physician junior to Nicholls was elected as successor. Nicholls was gravely insulted and resigned his Lumleian lectureship, withdrawing from active participation in the college.

In 1753 Nicholls was appointed to succeed the late Hans Sloane as one of George II's physicians. His report on the autopsy of the king in 1760, in the form of a letter to the earl of Macclesfield, president of the Royal Society, was published in the Philosophical Transactions.

Nicholls left London for Oxford in 1762 to supervise his son John's education, and when John moved back to London to study law Nicholls retired to Epsom where he lived until his death, possibly of tuberculosis, on 7 January 1778.
[Source: Dictionary of National Biography]

Wording on bookplate:

This Collection of Manuscript Lectures, by the Founders of the Medical College at Edinburgh, viz. Dr Monro primus, Drs Rutherford, Alston, St Clair and Plummer, consisting of Seventy Volumes, was purchased by Dr Duncan sen. in the year 1772, from Mr John Murray, bookseller in London, for seven guineas.

Dr Duncan has given directions, that after his death, these Manuscript Lectures, together with One Hundred Volumes of Practical Observations on Medicine, in his own handwriting, and which he has employed as notes for Clinical Lectures, shall be presented to the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh, to be deposited in their Library.

His intention is, that this Collection of Manuscripts, may convey to Posterity, a testimony of his own Industry, and of the Abilities of some of his Medical Preceptors, whose Characters, as long as Medicine continues to be cultivated as a Science, will do honour to the College of Physicians and University of Edinburgh. June 4 1812.

Contents: Lectures on anatomy, 1740
Date1740
TermPost mortem
Extent3 volumes
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