John Addenbrooke MD

Tomorrow will be the 300th anniversary of the death of Dr John Addenbrooke the founder of Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

John Addenbrooke was born in 1680 in Kingswinford, Staffordshire, the
only child of a Vicar of West Bromwich, the Revd Samuel Addenbrooke and his wife Matilda Porry. He was baptised on 13 June 1681
in the parish church of West Bromwich.

• 13 Dec 1697  he entered Catharine Hall (later to become St Catharine’s
College) as a pensioner (In the University of Cambridge, a pensioner is
a student who is not a scholar and who pays for his or her tuition).
• 1701 Graduated B.A.
• 1704 Elected Fellow of the College
• 1704 Admitted M.A.
• 1709-1710 Bursar of Catharine Hall
• Admitted to the College of Physicians of London
• 1710 Awarded M.D.
• 1710 Gave his library and his Materia Medica Cabinet to the College
• c1711 Married Susan Fisher, the daughter of the Rector of Benington in Hertfordshire,
• 1712-c1718 Practised in London
• c1718 Left London through ill health and moved to Littlecourt,
Buntingford.
• 7 Jun 1719 John Addenbrooke died at Buntingford. There is a
memorial plaque in the floor of St Catharine’s College Chapel.

There is no known portrait of Addenbrooke, but in a letter written by his
servant Mary Collis she describes him as ’tall and thin, of studious bearing
and he wore a wig’, he had many oddities and was at times supposed to
be insane.

Addenbrooke was said to have been skilled at necromancy and he foretold
the day and hour of his death. Sometime before his death he ordered and
witnessed the burning of all his writings and manuscripts in the courtyard
of his house.

However, the Hospital Archives does have two letters written by him:
• AHRF 1/2 Letter written by John Addenbrooke to a Dr Waller, Fellow
of St John’s College, Cambridge (c1711)
• AHRF 1/4 Giving advice for the treatment of a patient who is
thought to be suffering from an internal ulcer. Emetics, purges,
bleeding and spa waters are suggested. (4 Aug 1716)

JA Letter closeup
By the terms of his will dated 1 May 1719, Addenbrooke left about £4,500
to be held in trust for his widow (who survived him by only six months)
and then (as they had no children) –
‘to hire, fit up, purchase or erect a building for a small physical hospital
in the town of Cambridge for poor people of any Parish or any county.’

This bequest gave John Addenbrooke the distinction of being the first
Englishman to bequeath his private wealth to found a voluntary
hospital.

Sources: The National Archives: John Addenbrooke’s Will (prob 11/569)
St Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge Archives
John Addenbrooke M.D. (1680-1719) by Arthur Rook and Laurence Martin,
(Medical History, 1982, 26: 169-178).
The History of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, Arthur Rook, Margaret Carlton
and W Graham Cannon (Cambridge University Press 1991)

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