(Science: person) william Withering, the son and grandson of successful physicians, popularised foxglove (digitalis purpurea, (fairies thimbles), although its proposal to be used for the dropsy (excess body fluid) first appeared in the third london pharmacopeia in 1677.
william Withering was a botanist, chemist, musician (bagpipes, flute, harpsichord), geologist, and a well-to-do busy medical practitioner of Birmingham, England. He was a graduate of the university of Edinburgh.
He discovered barium carbonate, which was named witherite in his honor. He was so very busy that it was necessary for him to travel many nights, so he equipped his carriage with a light, and studied while he rode along the countryside.
Once a month he joined E. Darwin, J. Priestley, and J. Watt for dinner and lively discussions. This was called the lunar Society, and they the learned lunatics. In 1775, he learned from a grand old dame of Shropshire that she had a successful formula mixture of some 20 drugs for the treatment of dropsy. She was unable to differentiate between renal, cardiac, hepatic or cerebral dropsy.
botanist Withering perceived that the recipe had foxglove in it. Withering then undertook a careful study]] of the effects, administering infusions and powders from the foxglove leaf, stems, and the roots of the plant.
After cautioning of the toxicity, he provided quantities of the drug for his fellow physicians to try, but heedless that in their administration quite a number of people were evidently being poisoned by it with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, yellow vision, diarrhea, and slow pulse.
The drug was temporarily depopularised. So Withering produced his, An Account of the fox Glove and Some of its medical Uses (1785) to let people know how to properly use it. Withering wrote, Time will fix the real value upon this discovery, and determine whether I have imposed upon myself and others, or contributed to the benefit of science and mankind.
The last 15 years of his life, he suffered frequent episodes of haemoptysis, dyspnoea, and fevers. A friend visited him who related of this celebrated botanist-physician, The flower of english physicians is indeed Withering.