Richard Brocklesby, M.D., was the only son of Richard Brocklesby, esq., of Cork, by his wife Mary Alloway, of Minehead, co. Somerset, where, at the residence of his maternal grandfather, he was born on the 11th August, 1722. He received his preliminary education at Ballytore, in the north of Ireland, at the same school in which Edmund Burke was subsequently educated. He commenced the study of medicine at Edinburgh, and on the 3rd March, 1742, was admitted a member of the Medical Society there. He was entered on the physic line at Leyden 22nd November, 1743, attended the lectures of Albinus, Gaubius, Oosterdijk Schacht, and Van Royen, and proceeded doctor of medicine there 28th June, 1745 (D.M.I. de Salivâ Sanâ et Morbosâ. 4to.). Soon after this Dr. Brocklesby settled in London, and was admitted a Licentiate of the College of Physicians 1st April, 1751. On the 28th September, 1754, he was created doctor of medicine by the university of Dublin; and having, in December of the same year, been incorporated at Cambridge on that degree, he was admitted a Candidate of the College of Physicians 25th June, 1755; and a Fellow, 25th June, 1756. He was Gulstonian lecturer in 1758; Censor, 1758, 1763, 1765; Harveian orator in 1760; Croonian lecturer in 1763; and finally was named an Elect in 1778 in place of Dr. James Hawley, deceased. On the 1st October, 1787, Dr. Brocklesby presented to the College an elegant copy of Graevius and Gronovius’s Thesaurus Antiquitatum Romanarum et Græcarum,in 25 volumes folio,being the best edition; for which he received the unanimous thanks of the College.
In 1758, on the recommendation of Dr. Peter Shaw, and through the patronage of lord Barrington, Dr. Brocklesby was appointed physician to the army, and in this capacity served for some time in Germany during the seven years' war. He distinguished himself there by his knowledge, zeal, and humanity, and attracted to himself the notice of the duke of Richmond, lord Pembroke, and others. In October, 1760, he was appointed physician to the hospitals for the British forces, and once more proceeded to the seat of war; but, finally, returned to England some time before the peace of 1763. He then settled in Norfolk-street, Strand, where he died somewhat suddenly on the 11th December, 1797, aged seventy-five. At dinner he appeared to be in his usual health and spirits, but he expired suddenly a few minutes after retiring to bed. He was buried at St. Clement Danes.
Dr. Brocklesby had early attained a considerable rank in his profession, and from the time he settled in Norfolk-street, had lived on terms of intimacy and friendship with the most distinguished men of his day, to whom he was recommended by his medical skill, his benevolence, and his literary attainments. Dr. Brocklesby was the physician and friend of Johnson, of Wilkes, and of Edmund Burke, and was generally esteemed for his acquirements, conversational and social qualities. His income from private and professional sources was more than adequate to his wants, and his table was frequently filled with persons the most distinguished for rank, learning, and abilities, in the kingdom. His generous offer to Dr. Johnson of an annuity to enable him to resort to a milder climate; and also of apartments in his own house in Norfolk-street when Johnson’s confined dwelling in Bolt-court was considered injurious to his health, is well known; as is also the circumstance that, having bequeathed in his will a legacy of £1,000 to Edmund Burke, he gave it to him in his life-time, before the grant of an ample pension had made such a gift no longer necessary for his comfort. And it was Dr. Brocklesby who suggested and aided by Sir Sampson Gideon raised a subscription for the support of captain Coram, the founder of the Foundling hospital, who had impoverished himself and exhausted his means on that noble institution.(1) Dr. Brocklesby bequeathed his Irish estates, which were considerable, to his nephew, Mr. Beeby; and to another nephew, the very celebrated Dr. Thomas Young, his house and furniture in Norfolk-street, his library, his prints, a choice collection of pictures, chiefly selected by his friend, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and about £10,000 in money; other legacies were made to his servants and to other members of his family. Dr. Brocklesby’s portrait, by Copley, was engraved by Ridley. He contributed some papers to the Philosophical Transactions, and to the "Medical Observations and Inquiries," and was the author of—
An Essay concerning the Mortality among Homed Cattle. 8vo. Lond. 1746.
Economical and Medical Observations from 1758 to 1763, tending to the Improvement of Military Hospitals. 8vo. Lond. 1764.
A Dissertation on the Music of the Ancients.
[(1) On Dr. Brocklesby’s applying to Captain Coram to know whether his setting on foot a subscription for his benefit would not offend him, he received this noble answer: "I have not wasted the little wealth of which I was formerly possessed in self-indulgence or vain expenses, and am not ashamed to confess that in my old age I am poor." Biographia Britannica, Art. Coram]