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On March 8, 1712, English physician and naturalist John Fothergill was born. At the University of Edinburgh, Fothergill moved from studying to become an apothecary to studying medicine, graduating as a doctor. After being licensed to practice in London, he distinguished himself during city epidemics of fever and influenza. Fothergill worked long hours and became successful with treatments that were unusual for his day. He was the first to identify several diseases. He wrote books about the illnesses he treated and, sought out by the wealthy, became wealthy himself.

Fothergill bought a large estate and, pursuing his initial interest in natural science, built a botanical garden with plant species in the thousands including rare specimens from around the world. He was able to research and outline the natural history of many plants and their use in medicines and as drugs.

Writer-naturalist-apothecary-philanthropist-physician Dr. John Fothergill
Writer-naturalist-apothecary-philanthropist-physician Dr. John Fothergill

Actively involved in trying to reconcile the American colonies and the British establishment, Fothergill struck up a cordial relationship with Ben Franklin whom he treated for an illness during a London visit. The Pennsylvania tie continued as Fothergill donated to the Pennsylvania Hospital and assisted American students studying medicine in London.

From a Quaker family, Fothergill remained a Quaker throughout his life and supported education initiatives in its community of Friends. He founded the Ackworth School that continues over 200 years later to this day as a co-educational boarding and day school for infants to 18 year-olds!

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