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William Hey (1736-1819)

William Hey was born at Pudsey near Leeds, Yorkshire, the son of a drysalter. He was educated at Heath School near Wakefield despite being blind in one eye as a result of a childhood accident. Apprenticed to a surgeon at the age of fourteen, he went on to study at St George's Hospital in London. In 1757 Hey returned to Leeds and set up in practice.

In 1767 he was active in promoting the foundation of Leeds Infirmary and served there as senior surgeon from 1773 to 1812. Hey was responsible for advances in several areas of medicine and surgery, such as proving the transmission of venereal disease to the foetus.

He was a close friend of Dr Joseph Priestley despite profound religious differences and was proposed by Priestley for membership of the Royal Society. Hey also served as President of the first Leeds Literary and Philosophical Society and was twice Mayor of the town.

Hey was a devout Methodist and served as Circuit Steward until 1781 when he transferred his alleigance to the Church of England, although he remained sympathetic to the Methodists. He was such a staunch opponent of profanity and vice during his time as mayor, that he was burned in effigy by a section of the populace.

Source: Dictionary of National Biography, Peter S. Forsaith, A Kindled Fire: John and Charles Wesley and The Methodist Revival in the Leeds area (1988), 6 and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)

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