Floyer, Sir John

SUBJECT AREA: Medical technology
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b. 3 March 1649 Hints, Warwickshire, England
d. 1734 Lichfield, Staffordshire, England
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English physician, pioneer in the measurement of pulse and respiration rate.
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The younger son of a landed Midlands family, Floyer embarked on medical studies at Oxford at the age of 15 and graduated in 1674. He returned to Lichfield where he resided and practised, as well as being acquainted with the family of Samuel Johnson, for the remainder of a long life. Described by a later biographer as "fantastic, whimsical, pretentious, research-minded and nebulous", he none the less, as his various medical writings testify, became a pioneer in several fields of medical endeavour. It seems likely that he was well aware of the teachings of Sanctorius in relation to measurement in medicine and he probably had a copy of Sanctorius's weighing-machine made and put to use in Lichfield.
He also embarked on extensive studies relating to pulse, respiration rate, temperature, barometric readings and even latitude. Initially he used the minute hand of a pendulum clock or a navigational minute glass. He then commissioned from Samuel Watson, a London watch-and clockmaker, a physicians' pulse watch incorporating a second-hand and a stop mechanism. In 1707 and 1710 he published a massive work, dedicated to Queen Anne, that emphasized the value of the accurate measurement of pulse rates in health and disease.
His other interests included studies of blood pressure, asthma, and the medical value of cold bathing. It is of interest that it was at his suggestion that the young Samuel Johnson was taken to London to receive the Royal Touch, from Queen Anne, for scrofula.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Knighted 1686.
Bibliography
1707–10, The Physicians Pulse Watch, 2 vols, London.
Further Reading
D.D.Gibb, 1969, 'Sir John Floyer, M.D. (1649–1734), British Medical Journal.
MG

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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