© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraved frontispiece from 'An account of the foxglove: and some of its medical uses' by William Withering (1741-1799), published in 1785. 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.