Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Albert Isaiah Coffin and the Tomey family

I have just received an e.mail from Kay Williams whose ancestors, George Tomey and his second wife, Sarah, lived in Little Russell Street (1841), 49 Duke Street (1851, now Coptic Street) and 31 Dorset Street (1861), which is half a mile west of Bloomsbury. The Tomeys were involved with Albert Isaiah Coffin (1790/1-1866), an American medical botanist, who came to Britain in 1838.

Coffin (pictured) may have begun orthodox medical training but claimed to have been influenced by Native American healers, after being successfully treated for tuberculosis. He first practised in Manchester, using key remedies, lobelia (an emetic) and cayenne pepper (for warmth). He wrote 'Botanic Guide to Health' (1845) and 'Treatise on Midwifery and the Diseases of Women and Children' (1849). One of Coffin's assistants, John Skelton, was a great influence on John Boot, the father of Jesse and founder of Boot's pharmaceutical company and high street chemist chain. The institutions of British herbalism, notably the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, can be traced back to Coffin, who was active in London from the late 1840s.

Apparently, the Tomey family were a 'project' of Coffin's as he studied them for a number of years. Kay doesn't have the details of this surveillance but has given me the contact details of a distant cousin who might.

Coffin died on 1 August 1866 at 24 Montague Place, Russell Square, which is in the heart of Bloomsbury.

For more information about Albert Isaiah Coffin, click on the link: