Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

AUGUST 4th  

On this day in history in 1695, was born William Oliver

Oliver was a physician and an entrepreneur who set the trend for taking the waters at Bath and invented the Bath Oliver biscuit.

Oliver was born in Sithney, Cornwall. He read medicine at Pembroke College, Cambridge, taking an M.B. in 1720, and went on to the University of Leyden, a prominent medical school. He returned to Cambridge to take his M.D. in 1725 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal society in 1729. 

Oliver set up practice in Plymouth, where he was one of the pioneers of smallpox inoculation, a practice that was derided by conventional practitioners but soon proved effective. In 1728, he moved to Bath, where he became convinced of the curative properties of the local mineral waters. Oliver opined that the waters contained natural elements, which could not be replicated by scientific means and that they contained a natural essence, which could not be transported. To avail themselves of these wholesome nutrients, patients must necessarily come to the waters, rather than having waters sent to them. For this purpose, Oliver founded the Bath General Hospital, at which he acted as general physician.  

Oliver went on to state that the waters were such that their medicinal value dissipated if they were to be mingled with inferior products. To sustain the patients taking the waters, Oliver created a biscuit of wheat flour, containing no milk, juices, oils or any other substance, which could adulterate the health giving waters. Patients subsisted on a diet of water and Bath Oliver biscuits and were, hopefully, cured of their ailments. 

In 1764, Oliver, being on the point of death, not wishing for his recipe to die with him, gave the formula, together with a sum of money and a quantity of flour, to his coachman, Atkins, with instructions to carry on production. Atkins manufactured and mass marketed the biscuits and made himself a considerable fortune. He named his product ’Bath Oliver’, in honour of his patron and benefactor. Oliver is buried in the churchyard in Weston. [All Saints Church, High Street, Weston, Bath, BA1 4BX]

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