William Withering, English physician, late 18th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving made in 1801 by Ridley after Breda of Withering (1741-1799) with a vignette showing 'Dr Withering analysing the Queen's Bath at the request of the Court of Portugal'. Withering practised medicine at the County Infirmary, Stafford and later became chief physician in the General Hospital, Birmingham. In 1776 he published 'Botanical Arrangement of all the Vegetables Naturally Growing in Great Britain' after which he became aquainted with the English-American theologian and chemist, Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) and began to study chemistry and mineralogy along with botany. Withering was the first to establish the connection between dropsy and heart diseases and introduced digitalis (a plant extract from the foxglove) as a drug for cardiac disease.