William Becket

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William Becket
Engraving; portrait bust of W. Beckett, in Wellcome L0020640.jpg

William Becket (1684–1738) was an English surgeon and antiquary.

Antiquarian Specialist or aficionado of antiquities or things of the past

An antiquarian or antiquary is an aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More specifically, the term is used for those who study history with particular attention to ancient artifacts, archaeological and historic sites, or historic archives and manuscripts. The essence of antiquarianism is a focus on the empirical evidence of the past, and is perhaps best encapsulated in the motto adopted by the 18th-century antiquary Sir Richard Colt Hoare, "We speak from facts, not theory."



Becket was born at Abingdon, Berkshire. In the early years of the eighteenth century he was well known in London as a surgeon and an enthusiastic antiquary. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on 11 December 1718, and read three papers on The Antiquity of the Venereal Disease at its meetings during the same year ( Philosophical Transactions . vi. 368, 467, 492), and one on another subject in 1724 (Philosophical Transactions vii. 25).

Fellow of the Royal Society Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, including Honorary, Foreign and Royal Fellows

Fellowship of the Royal Society is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of London judges to have made a 'substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science, and medical science'.

Becket was an original member of the Society of Antiquaries, which was effectively established in 1717, and was on close terms with William Stukeley, William Bowyer, Browne Willis, and other antiquaries. He was for some years surgeon to St. Thomas's Hospital, Southwark, but before 1736 he had retired to Abingdon, where he died 25 November 1738. Stukeley noted in his common-place book that Becket's papers were bought by Edmund Curll, who sold them to Edward Milward.

Society of Antiquaries of London British learned society for archaeologists

The Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL) is a learned society "charged by its Royal Charter of 1751 with 'the encouragement, advancement and furtherance of the study and knowledge of the antiquities and history of this and other countries'." It is based at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, and is a registered charity.

William Stukeley English antiquarian

William Stukeley was an English antiquarian, physician, and Anglican clergyman. A significant influence on the later development of archaeology, he pioneered the scholarly investigation of the prehistoric monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury in Wiltshire. He published over twenty books on archaeology and other subjects during his lifetime.

William Bowyer (printer) 18th-century English printer

William Bowyer was an English printer.


  1. New Discoveries relating to the Cure of Cancers , 1711 and 1712.
  2. An Enquiry into the Antiquity and Efficacy of Touching for the King's Evil, with a Collection of Records, 1722. John Anstis the elder gave Becket some assistance in this work.
  3. Practical Surgery, illustrated and improved, with remarks on the most remarkable Cases, Cures, and Discussions in St. Thomas's Hospital, 1740.
  4. A Collection of Chirurgical Tracts, 1740.

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    DNB references

    These references are found in the DNB article referred to above.


      Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : "Becket, William". Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.

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      The Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) is a standard work of reference on notable figures from British history, published since 1885. The updated Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) was published on 23 September 2004 in 60 volumes and online, with 50,113 biographical articles covering 54,922 lives.