Dr William Stokes (1804-1878)

From The Cabinet of Irish Literature, Volume 4, edited by T. P. O'Connor

William Stokes. M.D , one of the greatest physicians of Ireland, was the son of Dr. Whitley Stokes, and was born in Dublin in 1804. He was privately educated, and took his diploma in Edinburgh in 1825. His early years gave great promise of future fame. Marrying in 1828, he settled down to practice in Dublin, and for fifty years maintained a high position in his profession, gradually attaining to one of the largest practices ever enjoyed in Ireland. In 1828 he published his first medical work, on The Application of the Stethoscope, which excited considerable attention, and was highly praised by the faculty. This was followed in 1837 by The Diagnosis and Treatment of Diseases of the Chest, the fame of which extended to foreign countries, and secured him a European celebrity. In 1839 he was elected fellow of the King and Queen's College of Physicians in Ireland, and Trinity College in the same year gave him the degree of M.D. Honours continued to fall upon him, so to speak, and in 1845 he was chosen regius professor of physic to the Dublin University, which post had previously been held until his death by his father. Dr. Stokes three times occupied the presidential chair of the King and Queen's College of Physicians. The Diseases of the Heart and Aorta, his chief medical work, appeared in 1849. The university of Oxford conferred upon him, in 1865, the honorary degree of D.C.L., and in 1874 the sister English university presented him with the degree of LL .D. He had already received a similar honour from Edinburgh in 1866, and in 1875 the much-coveted Prussian Order of Merit was bestowed upon him by his majesty the Emperor William of Germany.

In addition to his contributions to the literature of medicine, which secured for Dr. Stokes so high a place in the annals of the medical profession, he gained considerable distinction as a lover of Irish history and antiquities, and the work by which he is best known to the world is his biography of George Petrie the antiquarian, for whom he possessed a profound admiration. In disposition Dr. Stokes was distinguished by singular amiability and gentleness, his character also being marked by an unusual freedom from sectarian prejudice. His death, which took place at his country seat at Carrig Breac, Howth, near Dublin, on the 7th January, 1878, was lamented by all classes, "and to the last he was surrounded by a large circle of devoted relatives and friends." A statue of Dr. Stokes by Foley was erected in 1876 in the hall of the King and Queen's College of Physicians.

See also Dr George Petrie's Last Visit to Clare and A Touching Reminiscence of Dr George Petrie