Lining’s scientific pursuits began as early as 1737, when he began making careful meteorological observations using a barometer, a thermometer, and a hygroscope.

Physician, scientist. Lining was born in April 1708 in Lanarkshire, Scotland, the son of Thomas Lining, a minister, and Anne Hamilton. He studied medicine in Scotland and probably at Leyden University in the Netherlands. He immigrated to Charleston in 1728, and by the early 1730s he was advertising the sale of medicinal waters and drugs in the South-Carolina Gazette. He served as physician to the poor of St. Philip’s Parish and as port physician for the enforcement of quarantine. He built a successful medical practice and entered into partnership with Lionel Chalmers around 1740. In 1750 he married Sarah Hill, an heiress with several valuable parcels of property. They had no children. He abandoned the practice of medicine in 1754 after he was attacked by “gout” and turned to raising indigo and experimenting with electricity. Lining was a justice of the court of general sessions and the court of common pleas, president of the Charleston Library Society, a founder of the St. Andrews’s Society, and a Mason.

Lining’s scientific pursuits began as early as 1737, when he began making careful meteorological observations using a barometer, a thermometer, and a hygroscope. He continued keeping these records for fifteen years and published some of his results in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London in 1748 and 1753. These observations, which also appeared in Governor James Glen’s Description of South Carolina (1761), are reputed to be the earliest published meteorological records from America.

In 1740 Lining started making metabolic, or what he called “statical,” experiments on himself, keeping a careful record of his intake of food and output of excretions. He hoped to establish a connection between the effects of weather conditions on bodily functions and disease, particularly the fevers that struck the colony regularly at specific times of the year. Although unable to demonstrate a connection, he sent his observations to the Royal Society, and they were published in the society’s Transactions in 1742–1743 and 1744–1745. Lionel Chalmers later included them in his Account of the Weather and Diseases of South Carolina (1776). Lining was also an avid botanist who collected and sent many plant specimens to Charles Alston and Robert Whytt of Edinburgh University. In a paper published in Edinburgh in 1754, Lining described the benefits and toxicity of the Indian pinkroot as a vermifuge (worm remover or destroyer).

Lining’s most significant work on medicine was “A Description of the American Yellow Fever,” published in Edinburgh in 1756. This essay is often referred to as the first North American account of yellow fever, but it was preceded by John Moultrie, Jr.’s 1749 Edinburgh dissertation on the disease. Lining presented a clear, detailed clinical description of the disease’s symptoms, course, and prognosis. He argued that it was contagious and that it was imported from outside, usually from the West Indies. But he also noted the important, if apparently contradictory, fact that country residents infected while in town did not transmit it to their families. He concluded correctly that one attack of yellow fever conferred future immunity, but incorrectly that Africans were naturally immune to it. Lining died in Charleston on September 21, 1760.

Lining, John. “A Description of the American Yellow Fever.” Essays and Observations, Physical and Literary [Edinburgh] 2 (1756): 370–95.

Riley, James C. The Eighteenth-Century Campaign to Avoid Disease. New York: St. Martin’s, 1987.

Stearns, Raymond P. Science in the British Colonies of America. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1970.

Waring, Joseph I. A History of Medicine in South Carolina. Vol. 1, 1670–1825. Columbia: South Carolina Medical Association, 1964.

 

Waring, Joseph I. A History of Medicine in South Carolina. Vol. 1, 1670–1825. Columbia: South Carolina Medical Association, 1964.

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Citation Information

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  • Article Title Lining, John
  • Author Peter McCandless
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/lining-john/
  • Access Date December 16, 2019
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date June 8, 2016
  • Date of Last Update March 14, 2019