Aikin, John

John Aikin (1747-1822) was a physician and writer, the son of the theologian and educator, John Aikin (1713-80) and younger brother to Anna Letitia Aikin Barbauld (1743-1825), a significant writer and educator in her own right. All were Unitarians by the 1770s, having been associated with the Warrington Academy for the children of dissenting families where the elder Aikin was a classics instructor for many years. The younger Aikin attended Edinburgh University in the mid-1760s but did not take a degree, continuing his studies thereafter at Manchester and London and finally completed his M.D. at Leiden in 1784, setting up his medical practice in Yarmouth. His support of the French Revolution and Dissenters in general led to a decline in his Yarmouth practice and in 1792 moved to the Broad Street Buildings in London, circulating easily among the London Unitarians and becoming a success as a writer and periodical editor (primarily with Phillips’s Monthly Magazine between 1796 and 1806, but also the Monthly ReviewAnnual Review, and the Annual Register) while still practicing medicine. Among his publications are Biographical Memoirs of Medicine in Great Britain (1780) and the extensive edition of General Biography (8 vols, 1799-1813). He also joined with his sister in producing the immensely popular Evenings at Home (1792-96) along with other works aimed at young readers, such as Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose (1773), Letters from a Father to his Son on Various Topics Relative to Literature and the Conduct of Life (1793) and Letters to a Young Lady on a Course of English Poetry (1804). His daughter, Lucy Aikin (1781-1864), was a successful writer in her own right and her father’s biographer (2 vols, 1823).