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Sir Samuel Garth

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography puts up a new biography every day. Sir Samuel Garth, a physician who practiced in the 17th century, is featured today. It is noticeable that he persuaded all the members of the Royal College of Phyicians to each put up £10, a not inconsiderable sum in those days, "to establish a dispensary for free medical advice and discounted medicines for the sick poor, the first in England".

The charitable provision of medical care has a long history in Britain, and enabled the poor to have treatment long before the government took over by starting the NHS.

Garth wrote poetry, too, and encouraged Alexander Pope to publish. He is one of the more than 50,000 Brits whose lives are described in Oxford's online website. They make for provocative reading.