JONATHAN STOKES, c1755- 30th April 1831, Doctor of Medicine, Fellow of the Linnaean
Jonathan Stokes was probably born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, around 1755 and studied
medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1778, qualifying as MD in 1782. He practised
medicine in Stourbridge, Worcestershire, and also pursued interests in botany as
a plant collector and cataloguer.
Stokes became associated with William Withering (1741–1799), physician and botanist,
who was a member of the influential Lunar Society. Stokes had dedicated his thesis
on oxygen to Withering and became a member, with him, of the Lunar Society from 1783
Stokes contributed to Withering's ‘An Account of the Foxglove and its Medical Uses’
of 1785, writing a preface on the history of digitalis and providing details of six
clinical trials on patients he had treated for heart failure using Withering's pioneer
method. He helped to disseminate medical knowledge of digitalis, lecturing to the
Medical Society of Edinburgh on 20 February 1799.
Stokes collaborated with Withering on the third volume of the second edition (1792)
of Withering's standard botanical text ‘The Botanical Arrangement of All the Vegetables
Naturally Growing in Great Britain.’ Withering later fell out with Stokes (as he
had with Erasmus Darwin) in a dispute over Stokes' role in the new edition.
In 1790 Stokes was elected as one of the inaugural 16 associates of the newly founded
Linnaean Society of London and corresponded with Carolus Linnaeus the Younger. He
spent the rest of his life in private medical practice in Chesterfield and pursued
many scientific interests, publishing ‘A Botanical Materia Medica: Consisting of
the Generic and Specific Characters of the Plants Used in Medicine and Diet, with
Synonyms, and References to Medical Authors’ in 1812 and ‘Botanical Commentaries’
Jonathan Stokes died in Chesterfield on 30 April 1831 and was buried at St Mary's,
Chesterfield. The plant Stokesia cyanea or Stokesia laevis (Asteraceae/Compositae)
is named after him.