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William Lambe

William Lambe

William Lambe, FRCP (26 February 1765 – 11 June 1847) was an English physician and pioneer of vegetarianism.


He was born in Warwick, the son of Lacon Lambe, a Hereford attorney. He was educated at Hereford Grammar School, where he was head boy, and St John's College, Cambridge, graduating B.D. (as fourth wrangler) in 1786, M.B. in 1789, and M.D. in 1802. He was admitted a fellow of his college on 11 March 1788.

In 1790 he took over the practice of a Warwick friend and in the same year published his ‘Analyses of the Leamington Water'. The results of further minute chemical examination of these waters were published by him in the fifth volume of the ‘Transactions’ of the Philosophical Society of Manchester. Moving to London about 1800, Lambe was admitted a Fellow of the College of Physicians in 1804, becoming a censor (examiner) and delivering the Croonian Lecture on several occasions between 1806 and 1828 and the Harveian Oration in 1818.[1]

His London practice was in King's (now Theobald's) Road, Bedford Row, where he attended three times a week. Many of his patients were needy people, from whom he would accept no fees. Lambe was considered an eccentric by his contemporaries, mainly on the ground that he was a strict, but not fanatical, vegetarian and that his favourite prescription was filtered water. He retired from medical practice about 1840.

He died at Dilwyn, Herefordshire on 11 June 1847 and is buried in the family vault in the churchyard there. His son, William Lacon Lambe, also studied medicine and graduated M.B. in 1820 from Caius College, Cambridge.

In The Ethics of Diet, 1833 Howard Williams concluded that "Dr. Lambe occupies an eminent position in the medical literature of vegetarianism, and he divides with his predecessor, Dr. Cheyne, the honour of being the founder of scientific dietetics in this country".


He published a number of written works, including:

  • ‘Researches into the Properties of Spring Water, with Medical Cautions against the use of Lead in Water Pipes, Pumps, Cisterns,’ &c., 1803, 8vo.
  • ‘A Medical and Experimental Enquiry into the Origin, Symptoms, and Cure of Constitutional Diseases, particularly Scrofula, Consumption, Cancer, and Gout,’ 1805, 8vo; republished, with notes and additions by Joel Shew, New York, 1854.
  • ‘Reports of the Effects of a Peculiar Regimen on Scirrhous Tumours and Cancerous Ulcers,’ 1809, 8vo. The British Museum copy contains a manuscript letter from the author to Lord Erskine, and some remarks upon the work by the latter.
  • ‘Additional Reports on the Effects of a Peculiar Regimen,’ &c., London, 1815, 8vo. Extracts from these two works, with a preface and notes by E. Hare, and written in the corresponding style of phonography by I. Pitman, were published at Bath in 1869, 12mo.
  • ‘An Investigation of the Properties of Thames Water,’ London, 1828, 8vo.
  • Water and vegetable diet in consumption, scrofula, cancer, asthma, and other chronic diseases, with notes and additions, by Joel Shew, M.D., New York: Fowlers and Wells, 1884.


  1. ^ Munk, William. The roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London, comprising biographical sketches of all the eminent physicians whose names are recorded in the Annals .. (Volume 3). Royal College of Physicians.

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