Richard Lower, blood transfusion pioneer

Richard Lower born in 1631 near Bodmin is famous for his anatomical work on the brain and nerves. He was involved in the first experiment with blood transfusions on humans.

Richard Lower was born in 1631 on the family estate at Tremeer, near Bodmin.

He had long Cornish roots. His grandmother, Mary Nicholls, was related to Anthony Nicholls, a member of the Long Parliament. His mother, Margery Billing, family home was Hengar, the largest house in the district; and when Lower married Elizabeth, daughter of John Billing of Hengar, in 1666. Lower's father, Humphry, inherited Tremeer, the Lower family estate, and left it to Edward, Richard's older brother. Richard's younger brother, Thomas, a physician, was later imprisoned with the Quaker leader George Fox for his religious beliefs. Lower was also related to the dramatist Sir William Lower.

He was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford. He obtained his BA degree in 1663 and remained at Oxford to study medicine. In 1667, he moved to London and started a medical practice. He set up in medical practice, first in Hatton Garden, next near Fleet Street, then Bow Street, and lastly King Street, near Covent Garden, where. He became a member of the Royal Society and a celebrated court physician.

He was involved in the first experimental transfusions of blood into a human subject in 1666. He investigated the anatomical and physiological structure and action of the heart, publishing his findings in 1669. He was one of the most skilled vivisectionalists of his time.

He married Elizabeth Billing in 1666, and they had two daughters.

In 1671 he was a Member of the Royal College of Physicians, becoming a Fellow in July 1675. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in November 1667.

However, he ceased to be patronised by the court after 1678 because of his support for the Whigs in politics, and his medical practice fell away.

He spent an increasing amount of his time in Cornwall until his death in London on 17 January 1691.

 

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