Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Trained as a doctor at Edinburgh University, he worked at Birmingham General Hospital from 1779. The story is that one of his patients with dropsy (congestive heart failure) improved remarkably after taking a traditional herbal remedy; William became famous for recognising that the active ingredient in the mixture was contained in the leaves of foxglove. The active ingredient is now known as digitalis, after the plant's scientific name. In 1785, Withering published An Account of the Foxglove and some of its Medical Uses, which contained reports on clinical trials and notes on digitalis toxicity.
He published an early and influential British Flora, of which there were many editions, some posthumous, and carried out pioneering work into the identification of fungi.
He is buried in Edgbaston old church, next to the hall. His memorial stone, now moved inside the church, has foxgloves carved upon it to commemorate his discovery. He is remembered by the Moonstones, also in Birmingham.
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