John Arbuthnot

1667 (Inverbervie, Scotland) – 1735 (London)

He was a close friend of Swift, Pope and Gay, fellow-members of the ‘Scriblerus Club’ (which met in his house), and is thought to have directly inspired some of Swift and Pope’s work. He met Newton and Pepys in Oxford, where a private pupil of his was studying; later he found himself caught in a row between Newton and Flamsteed over Flamsteed’s star catalogue. Sloane was a correspondent, and Handel a friend — Arbuthnot officially managed his opera productions within the U.K.  Swift and he were fond of perpetrating practical jokes, as well as making mischief with political pamphlets they published.

Philippe Pinel

1745 (Jonquières, France) – 1826 (Paris)

Pinel was a pioneer of the humane treatment of psychiatric patients, and of the observational study of their condition. Pussin was an influential colleague — it was he, and not Pinel, as often claimed, who first ordered patients to be unchained, and who initiated patient-centred approaches to treatment. Chaptal (they met in Montpellier) acknowledged Pinel’s influence on his ideas. Franklin met him in Paris (almost leading him to emigrate to America), Fourcroy recommended him for a professorship, while Esquival, a disciple, eventually succeeded him. Georget was his other great student and collaborator, and Condorcet a friend.

Philippe Pinel knew…

William Small

1734 (Carmyllie, Scotland) – 1775 (Birmingham)

The amiable Small was inspiring both as a teacher, and as a prime animating force behind the pioneering scientific/industrial Lunar Society. He knew Black and Hutton in Scotland. Franklin, met in Virginia, recommended him to Boulton (Small became his friend, confidant and technical advisor); through Boulton he met Wedgwood, Darwin, Baskerville, Edgeworth and Keir (who loved him affectionately). Small corresponded with Watt, and helped him draft his steam-engine patent. Jefferson credited his teaching for setting him on course for life (and sent him three cases of madeira that sadly arrived after Small’s early death).

William Cullen

1710 (Hamilton, Scotland) – 1790 (Edinburgh)

Cullen, a key Scottish Enlightenment figure and highly influential as a teacher of medicine and chemistry, gave the first demo of artificial refrigeration, and coined the term ‘neurosis’. Hunter was his apprentice and friend, living in his house for three years. Black (protégé, friend and colleague), Rush and Withering were among his students, and Smith a lifelong friend; Cullen advised him to ride at least 500 miles if he wanted to survive the next Scottish winter. Hutton was another close friend, and Pringle a warm correspondent. He saw his friend Hume on his deathbed. Johnson described him as “very entertaining.”

Étienne-Jean Georget

1795 (Vernon-sur-Brenne, France) – 1828 (Paris)

Georget was a pioneer in psychiatric medicine, with an enlightened view of patients as individuals. Interested in identifying typical physiognomies, he commissioned his friend Géricault to paint a series of portraits of patients: both men died before the project was completed. Georget was Esquirol’s dear student, as well as one of Pinel’s, and extended the work of both; both Georget and Esquirol studied monomania, and identified mental fixation as a primary symptom, leading Romanticist musicians like Berlioz and writers like Musset, Sand and Balzac to extend the idea to fictional and autobiographical psychopathology.

Étienne-Jean Georget knew…

John Polidori

1795 (London) – 1821 (London)

While Polidori is a footnote to romanticist literature, he was present at a critical juncture. As a recently-qualified doctor aged just 20 or 21, he was taken on by Byron as his personal physician and accompanied him on a European journey. They met up with the Shelleys, and according to the well-known story, concocted ghost stories one evening. Percy Shelley’s contribution is forgotten, Polidori came up with ‘The Vampyre’ (he tried to pass it off as Byron’s, as likelier to sell), while Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ became the best-known. Uncle to Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, Polidori’s probable suicide aged 26 preceded their births.

Erasmus Darwin

1731 (Elston, England) – 1802 (Breadsall)

The Lunar Society’s lynchpin, Boulton, Small, Edgeworth, Josiah Wedgwood, Priestley, Watt, Keir and Withering were friends and associates — Boulton, Wedgwood, Watt, Edgeworth and Small (whose deathbed Darwin was beside) particularly close. He borrowed botanical books from Banks, advised Beddoes to set up in Bristol, translated his correspondent Linnaeus’s work, and contrived a ‘casual’ meeting with Rousseau in Dovedale. Coleridge was enthralled by his learning if not his versifying, while Franklin (lifelong friend and mentor) grumbled about his pond’s smell. Fuseli, another good friend, illustrated his ‘Botanic Garden.’

Henry Draper

1837 (Hampden Sydney, Va.) – 1882 (New York)

Draper was a pioneer of astrophotography, despite working at it only part-time. John W. Draper was his father. His younger brother Daniel helped him set up his astronomical observatory. Edison developed a ‘microtasimeter’ for Draper, to measure fluctuations in solar corona temperature during an eclipse (it was over-sensitive).

Hans Sloane

1660 (Killyleagh, Ireland) – 1753 (London)

As a student in France, he met Magnol. Montagu was a friend, Linnaeus and Haller both met him when they visited London, while Boerhaave, Leibniz, Locke, Pepys, Jussieu and Walpole were all correspondents. Leeuwenhoek wrote describing blood cells, and Ray made use of his plant collection to help in his own research. Franklin sold him a purse made of asbestos; Handel apparently carelessly put a buttered muffin down on one of his priceless manuscripts. Boyle and Newton were both friends; he succeeded Newton as president of the Royal Society, where Aubrey, Halley and Flamsteed were colleagues.