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Unusual SuspectsPitt's Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s$
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Kenneth R. Johnston

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199657803

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657803.001.0001

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No Laughing Matter

No Laughing Matter

Thomas Beddoes, Sr. (1760–1808)

Chapter:
(p.96) 6 No Laughing Matter
Source:
Unusual Suspects
Author(s):

Kenneth R. Johnston

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657803.003.0006

In 1792, Thomas Beddoes, Sr. was nominated by the Oxford University chancellor to become the first holder of its Regius chair in Chemistry. But political blacklisting by anonymous detractors responding to the King’s proclamation against seditious writings doomed his chances. He moved to Bristol, where he set up an independent Pneumatic Institute for study of therapeutic uses of nitrous oxide (‘laughing gas’) and other elemental gases, assisted by Humphry Davy. He joined the brilliant circle of intellectuals gathered around the philanthropic Wedgwood family at Cote House, working with Coleridge and others to support the cause of parliamentary reform. He wrote five pamphlets on reform issues between 1795 and 1797, including an Essay on the Public Merits of Mr. Pitt. His scientific work was increasingly associated with his political liberalism by his opponents, leading to losses in private funding. His own health suffered from the strain, leading to an early death.

Keywords:   Thomas Beddoes, Sr. Oxford University, Humphry Davy, Nitrous oxide (laughing gas), Bristol Pneumatic Institute, Wedgwood, Political blacklisting, Joseph Banks, The Royal Society, Public preventive medicine

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