Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Sir John Pringle, [June? 1769]

From Sir John Pringle

AL: American Philosophical Society

[June?, 1769]

Sir John Pringle’s Compliments to Dr. Franklin, and begs to introduce to his acquaintance the bearer Dr. Starck who has lately made the curious experiments on living on bread and water, and who wanting to make a pair of nice scales for weighing himself in this prosecution of those experiments7 Sir J.P. has taken this liberty to address him to Dr. F. for his advice about the construction.

Addressed: To / Dr Franklin / Craven Street / at Mrs Stevenson’s left hand as you go down ⅔ of the way

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7William Stark (1740–70) was a medical pioneer, whose research on himself brought him to an early grave. After finishing his studies at Edinburgh he came to London in 1765; in 1767 he took his M.D. at Leyden, then returned to London to continue his studies. From observing patients at St. George’s Hospital he amassed clinical notes, which were subsequently edited and published, on diseases of various parts of the body. In June, 1769, with the encouragement of Pringle and, it is said, BF, Stark began to experiment with living on different kinds of diet (of bread and another food added) which were all meager to a degree. He kept a journal with meticulous details of these experiments, including his weight each day to the dram, until Feb. 18, 1770. By then he was so seriously ill that he summoned Dr. Hewson, Polly Stevenson’s husband-to-be, and five days later he died. James Carmichael Smyth, ed., The Works of the Late William Stark, M.D., Consisting of Clinical and Anatomical Observations, with Experiments, Dietetical and Statical … (London, 1788), pp. x–xi, 96–109; see also DNB.

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