Matthew Maty (17 May 1718 – 2 July 1776), originally Matthieu Maty, was a Dutch physician and writer of Huguenot background, and after migration to England secretary of the Royal Society and the second principal librarian of the British Museum.
The son of Paul Maty, he was born at Montfoort, near Utrecht, the Netherlands, on 17 May 1718. His father was a Protestant refugee from Beaufort, Provence; he settled in the Dutch Republic and became minister of the Walloon church at Montfoort, and subsequently catechist at The Hague, but was dismissed from his benefices and excommunicated by synods at Kampen and The Hague in 1730 for maintaining, in a letter on ‘The Mystery of the Trinity’ to De la Chappelle, that the Son and Holy Spirit are two finite beings created by God, and at a certain time united to him. After ineffectual protest against the decision of the synods, the elder Maty sought refuge in England, but was unable to find patronage there, and had to return to The Hague, whence his enemies drove him to Leiden. He lived in Leiden with his brother Charles Maty, compiler of a Dictionnaire géographique universel (1701 and 1723, Amsterdam), in 1751, being then seventy years of age. He subsequently returned to England, and lived with his son in London, where he died on 21 March 1773.
Matthew was entered at Leiden University on 31 March 1732, and graduated PhD in 1740, the subject for his inaugural dissertation (which shows Montesquieu's influence) being ‘Custom.’ A French version of the Latin original, greatly modified, appeared at Utrecht in 1741 under the title ‘Essai sur l'Usage,’ and attracted some attention. He also graduated M.D. at Leiden, 11 February 1740, with a parallel dissertation, ‘De Consuetudinis Efficacia in Corpus Humanum.’
In 1741, he came over to London, England, and set up in practice as a physician. He frequented a club which numbered Drs James Parsons, Peter Templeman, William Watson, and John Fothergill among its members, and met every fortnight in St Paul's Churchyard, but soon began to devote his energies to literature. He began in 1750 the publication of the bi-monthly Journal Britannique, which was printed at the Hague, and gave an account in French of the chief productions of the English press. The ‘Journal,’ which had a considerable circulation in the Low Countries, on the Rhine, and at Paris, Geneva, Venice, and Rome, as well as in England, became in Maty's hands an instrument of eulogy; and it continued to illustrate, in Edward Gibbon's words, ‘the taste, the knowledge, and the judgment of Maty’ until December 1755, by which time it had introduced him to a wide circle of literary friends.
He had been elected Fellow of the Royal Society on 19 December 1751, and in 1753, on the establishment of the British Museum, he was nominated, together with James Empson, an under-librarian, the appointment being confirmed in June 1756. Gibbon described Maty as one of the last disciples of the school of Fontenelle, and revised his Essai sur l'étude de la littérature in accordance with Maty's advice; nervous that his French, acquired in Lausanne, might appear provincial rather than Parisian, Gibbon had come hoping for a rather stronger endorsement than Maty's introduction to the work turned out to be.Maty was, though, on bad terms with Samuel Johnson after some comments in his 'Journal'; when his name was mentioned in 1756 by Dr William Adams as a suitable assistant in the projected review of literature, Johnson's sole comment was, ‘The little black dog! I'd throw him into the Thames first.’ He was in frequent intercourse with Hans Sloane and other scientific men, was an advocate of inoculation, and against doubts of its efficacy experimented on himself.
On 1 March 1760, he unsuccessfully applied to the Duke of Newcastle for the post of secretary to the Society of Arts; but he was in March 1762 elected foreign secretary of the Royal Society, in succession to Dr James Parsons. He was at this time member of a literary society which included John Jortin, Wetstein, Ralph Heathcote, De Missy, and Thomas Birch. On the resignation of the post by Birch (who died a few months later and left him his executor), Maty was, 30 November 1765, appointed secretary of the Royal Society. He was in the same year admitted a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians.
In 1772, on the death of Gowin Knight, Maty was nominated his successor as principal librarian of the British Museum. In his capacity as chief librarian he placed, like his predecessor, difficulties in the way of visitors. He bought a number of valuable books for the Museum at Anthony Askew's sale in 1775. Maty died on 2 July 1776. His books were sold in 1777 by Benjamin White.
Maty's chief works are:
His contributions to the Philosophical Transactions are enumerated in Robert Watt's Biblioteca Britannica. He completed for the press Thomas Birch's Life of John Ward, published in 1766, and translated from the French A Discourse on Inoculation, read before the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, 24 April 1754, by Mr. La Condamine, with a preface, postscript, and notes, 1765, and New Observations on Inoculation, by Dr. Garth, Professor of Medicine at Paris, 1768.
At the time of his death Maty had nearly finished the Memoirs of the Earl of Chesterfield, work assisted by Solomon Dayrolles,which were completed by his son-in-law Justamond, and prefixed to the Miscellaneous Works, 2 vols., 1777 of Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield. Maty had been one of Chesterfield's executors.
He was twice married: first to Elizabeth Boisragon, by whom he had a son Paul Henry Maty, and three daughters, of whom Louisa (died 1809) married Rogers (1732–1795), only son of John Jortin, and Elizabeth married John Obadiah Justamond, F.R.S., surgeon of Westminster Hospital, and translator of Abbé Raynal's ‘History of the East and West Indies,’ and secondly to Mary Deners.
Thomas Birch was an English historian.
Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, was a British statesman, diplomat, and man of letters, and an acclaimed wit of his time.
Jean-Pierre de Crousaz was a Swiss theologian and philosopher. He is now remembered more for his letters of commentary than his formal works.
Alexander Monroprimus was a Scottish surgeon and anatomist. His father, the surgeon John Monro, had been a prime mover in the foundation of the Edinburgh Medical School and had arranged Alexander's education in the hope that his son might become the first Professor of Anatomy in the new university medical school. After medical studies in Edinburgh, London, Paris and Leiden, Alexander Monro returned to Edinburgh, and pursued a career as a surgeon and anatomy teacher. With the support of his father and the patronage of the Edinburgh Lord Provost George Drummond, Alexander Monro was appointed foundation Professor of Anatomy at the University of Edinburgh. His lectures, delivered in English, rather than the conventional Latin, proved popular with students and his qualities as a teacher contributed to the success and reputation of the Edinburgh medical school. He is known as Alexander Monro primus to distinguish him from his son Alexander Monro secundus and his grandson Alexander Monro tertius, who both followed him in the chair of anatomy. These three Monros between them held the Edinburgh University Chair of Anatomy for 126 years.
Johann Heinrich Samuel Formey was a German churchman, educator, author, and journalist. The son of an immigrant French family, he preached, taught, and wrote in French. A founding member of the Berlin Academy, he wrote thousands of letters, popularized scientific and philosophical ideas, and also contributed to Diderot's Encyclopédie.
Philip Stanhope, 5th Earl of Chesterfield KG, PC, FRS, FSA, known as Philip Stanhope until 1773, was a British politician and diplomat. He was British Ambassador to Spain between 1784 and 1787, Master of the Mint between 1789 and 1790, Joint Postmaster General between 1790 and 1798 and Master of the Horse between 1798 and 1804.
Gervais de La Rue, French historical investigator, once regarded as one of the chief authorities on Norman and Anglo-Norman literature.
Isaak Vossius, sometimes anglicised Isaac Voss was a Dutch scholar and manuscript collector.
Marc-Auguste Pictet was a scientific journalist and an experimental natural philosopher born in Geneva, Republic of Geneva.
James Dodson FRS (c.1705–1757) was a British mathematician, actuary and innovator in the insurance industry.
Paul Henry Maty was an English librarian.
Jonathan Stokes was an English physician and botanist, a member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham, and an early adopter of the heart drug digitalis.
Joan Gideon Loten was a Dutch servant in the colonies of the Dutch East India Company, the 29th Governor of Zeylan, Fellow of the Royal Society and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. During his time in the colonies he made collections of natural history. In 1758 he moved to Holland. Nine months after his return from the Dutch East Indies he moved to London, where he lived for 22 years and interacted with scholarly societies and shared his natural history illustrations and collections. The sunbird species Cinnyris lotenius is named after him
Charles Morton MD (1716–1799) was an English medical doctor and librarian who became the principal librarian of the British Museum.
Solomon Dayrolles was an English diplomat.
Ralph Heathcote (1721–1795) was an English cleric and writer.
John Obadiah Justamond (1737–1786) was an Anglo-French surgeon and writer.
Edward Archer (1718–1789) was an English physician, closely associated with the practice of inoculation against smallpox.
Andrew Cantwell was an Irish academic in France and medical writer, known as an opponent of inoculation.
Charles-Pierre Chais (1701–1785) was a Genevan pastor, who spent much of his life in The Hague. He completed a Bible translation in French; however, it derived with commentary from English-language sources.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : "Maty, Matthew". Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.