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Volume 67 May 1974

History of Medicine
President WHartston FRCP
Meeting 7 November 1973
(continuedfrom April 1974 'Proceedings' p 242)
Dr Richard Russell 1687- 1759
by LWLauste MD FRCS
County Hospital, Brighton)
Richard Russell (Fig 1) was born on 26 November
1687, in the parish of St Michael's, Lewes, the son
of a surgeon and apothecary, Nathaniell Russell,
and Mary, his wife. Nathaniell Russell practised
in Lewes, as had his father before him.
Russell was educated at the Grammar School
of Southover, Lewes, a foundation dating back
to 1512 but with early mention of a school in
Southover as far back as 1248. At the school he
obtained considerable classical knowledge and,
being destined for the practice of medicine, was
apprenticed to his father. In the course of this
medical apprenticeship he met and became
attached to the only daughter and heiress of
William Kempe Esquire of Malling Deanery,
near Lewes. Because of the difference in social
position and the fierce opposition of Mr Kempe,
courtship was difficult but eventually in 1719 they
were married in Lewes, at the Church of St John-
sub-Castro, to Mr Kempe's great displeasure.
Later, however, Mr Kempe relented because of
his love for his daughter and the excellent
qualities of his son-in-law, and he reinstated his
daughter. Russell subsequently went to Leyden
to complete his medical education under Boer-
haave and it seems probable his wife went with
him. He graduated as a Doctor of Medicine in
Leyden on 22 December 1724, with a thesis on
epilepsy in children.
Russell returned to England and continued
practice in Lewes and on the death of his father-
in-law succeeded to the property of Malling
Deanery, where he lived with his wife and family
Fig 1 Portrait ofDr RichardRussell by Benjamin
Wilson (Brighton Art Gallery)
and where he practised. He had from early years
taken an interest in the properties of sea water
and in sea bathing and their medical use, though
this was no new concept as is shown by his
writings, but was again attracting attention in
this country.
In 1750 he published his book 'De tabe
glandulari, sive de usu aqua marine in morbis
glandularum dissertatio', recording his experience
over twenty-five years with the use of sea water
both internally and externally and particularly in
328 Proc. roy. Soc. Med. Volume 67 May 1974
cases of glandular disease. The book was pub-
lished at Oxford under the imprimatur of the
Vice-Chancellor, J Purnell, Warden of New
College, written in Latin and inscribed to the
Duke of Newcastle. Russell became famous
because of this book and his method of treatment
by sea water and he was elected a Fellow of the
Royal Society in 1752.
So successful was the book that an unauthor-
ized translation into English by an 'Eminent
physician' was published in 1752 and another
edition was published in Dublin in 1753. This
pirated translation continued to be published in
several editions over many years and with addi-
tions concerning the use of sea water and later of
mineral waters and the spas. The last London
edition, the fifth, was published in 1769.
Russell was so angered by this translation,
which he said was inaccurate as well as being
unauthorized, that he himself published a trans-
lation into English, again at Oxford under the
imprimatur of the Vice-Chancellor, nowJ Browne,
Master of University College; the title was 'A
Dissertation concerning the Use of Sea Water in
Diseases of the Glands', to which he added an
Epistolary Dissertation to Richard Frewin mD.
This was in 1753.
In 1753 because of the great increase in his
practice and the desirability of Brighthelmston
for sea water treatment, he built a house near
the seashore, known as Russell House, on the
site now occupied by The Royal Albion Hotel,
and moved to Brighthelmston in 1754. A few
years after his death the house was rented by the
Duke of Cumberland, brother of George ILL,
who invited his nephew, the Prince of Wales, to
visit him; this the Prince did first in 1783 and
so begun his long connexion with Brighthelm-
ston, which contributed so much to the growth
and importance of the town.
In 1755 Russell published his second book,
'Oeconomia natura in morbis acutis et chronicis
glandularum', which he himself had translated
into English and published under the title of
'The Economy of Nature in Acute and Chronical
Diseases of the Glands'.
Richard Russell died while on a visit to London
on 21 December 1759 and was buried in the
family vault at South Malling Church on 24
December. He had three daughters and two sons,
none of whom practised medicine. His elder son,
William, a lawyer, changed his name to Kempe
after his father's death, and his younger son,
Richard, entered the Church.
His house, Malling Deanery, is still a private
house, somewhat altered over the years but with
the same lovely grounds and views, adjacent to
the Church of St Michael the Archangel or South
Malling Church as it is usually known.
The Writings of Dr Russell
The earliest publication by Russell is in the Philo-
sophical Transactions in 1713: 'An account of a
Schirrhous Tumour included in a Cystis by Dr-
Richard Rusel, Surgeon at Lewes in Sussex'. In
this he describes a woman who had had a large
tumour in the breast for thirty-eight years
following a fall from a horse. Then acute symp-
toms supervened and Russell removed a large
tumour containing hair which would appear to
have been an infected dermoid cyst, though he
thought the condition the result of diseased
His next publication in 1724 was his thesis in
Leyden, 'De epilepsia puerili'. Then in 1750
appeared the book which made him famous and
had great influence both in this country and on
the Continent, 'De tabe glandulari'. His trans-
lation into English published in 1753 followed
exactly the Latin edition but Russell did not
translate any quotations, which were left in
their original Greek or Latin form, the only
addition being an Epistolary to Dr Richard
Frewin. The title page is beautifully executed with
a vignette composed of sea shells and sea weeds
with a dolphin below and the Radcliffe Camera
at Oxford inset - on one side is Poseidon with his
trident and on the other Hygeia with her serpent
(Fig 2). Below the title is a quotation from
Russell was clearly a good classical scholar-
hence his
apt quotation
The Dissertation is a lengthy book of more
than 300 pages with a long dedication to Thomas
Holles, Duke of Newcastle, who was clearly a
cldse friend of the doctor. The Preface opens:.
'I offer to the Reader's perusal in the following sheets
some cases, which were cured by sea water; wherein I
have endeavoured to explain and illustrate, as far as I
am able, by what ways it produces its good effect; in
subduing diseases of the glands. But I have left what-
ever else may lead to a more accurate knowledge of it
(and in so great a medicine I should think the field
likely to be very extensive), to the ingenious experi-
ments of those who come after me.'
Then follow observations on the nature of sea
water and the experiments of others - Dr Hales,
Dr Boerhaave ... and mention of the help he has