An Account of the FoxgloveBMJ 2009; 338 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b2189 (Published 01 June 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b2189
- William O Goldthorp, retired consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology, Cheshire
William Withering, discover of digitalis, began practising as a doctor in Stafford in 1767. It was a small practice, and he found time to study flowers, which were painted for him by Helena Cook, who became his wife. He soon moved to Birmingham, where his first book, A Botanical Arrangement, was published in 1776. It went through several editions and was still in print 101 years later.
In 1775 Withering, whose father was an apothecary, was given a secret family recipe for the treatment of dropsy. Withering realised that the active ingredient was the foxglove. This he tried out on his patients over the years in different preparations …