Withering Collection: Papers of T.W. Peck and K.D. Wilkinson

Scope and Content

The collection relates to the book by T.W. Peck and K.D. Wilkinson, William Withering of Birmingham , Bristol, 1950. Including: typescripts; engravings of contemporaries of Withering; printed items mostly relating to Withering; documents, wills and papers of the Withering Family; correspondence comprising typed copies of originals in the Royal Society and Birmingham Assay office; miscellaneous printed items.

Administrative / Biographical History

Administrative/Biographical History

William Withering, botanist and physicist, is credited with the introduction of digitalis into the practice of medicine. Withering was born in Wellington, Shropshire, England in 1741. He followed in the medical footsteps of his father who was an apothecary-surgeon. Withering received his degree in 1766 from the University of Edinburgh. Withering published 19 articles during his lifetime. After fighting a long battle with tuberculosis, he died on 6 October 1799, at the age of 58. Digitalis purpurea in Withering's 18th century was a blessing for people with dropsy. At the same time, foxglove concotions began to appear in an attempt to cure, albeit unsucessfuly, illneses such as asthma, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, insanity and others. The 18th century brought foxglove into medical light, but it would take several hundred years before its true healing powers could be harnessed completely.

Reference: Hand Kocher, Digitalis Purpurea Cardia Glycoside ( http://www.csoll.tamu.edu/FLORA/wilson/481/medbot/bot2.htm ).

T. Whitmore Peck M.P.S.: In about 1912, Peck became interested in tracing out the Withering family almost at the same time as Wilkinson acquired a number of Withering letters and documents. In early 1944, a serios illness overwhelmed Peck and consequently, "the actual writing & general plan of the book must be attributed to" Wilkinson (Preface)

Reference: Deposit information

(Kenneth) Douglas Wilkinson (1886-1951), physician to the Birmingham United Hospital since 1925 and consulting physician to Children's Hospital, Birmingham, Professor of Therapeutics in the University of Birmingham, 1929-1946. Educated at Birmingham University. Publications in addition to the Withering book include The History of the Birmingham Medical School, 1925 various articles in professional journals.

Reference: Who was who, 1951-1960 ( London A&C Black ).


The collection is arranged chronologically within the sequence described above.

Access Information

Access Conditions

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was deposited as a gift in 1971 by Wilkinson's wife.

Other Finding Aids

Finding Aids

A paper catalogue to file and item level is available in the Special Collections Department and at the National Register of Archives in London.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

University of Birmingham Information Services, Special Collections Department also hold the Withering Letters: a collection of letters of William Withering.