Babington, William (1756–1833), doctor and mineralogist, was born 21 May 1756 in Portglenone, Co. Antrim, son of Humphrey Babington, curate of Ahoghill, and his wife Dorothea (née Buttle or Battle). His brothers Thomas and Richard became clergymen; another brother, David Babington (1753–86), was MP for Ballyshannon 1797–1800, and voted against the union. William was apprenticed to a doctor in Derry city, completed his medical training at Guy's Hospital, London, and in 1777 (as assistant surgeon at Haslar naval hospital, Portsmouth) caught jail fever from prisoners of war. He became apothecary to Guy's Hospital, then lecturer in chemistry there. In 1795 he was awarded the MD degree of Aberdeen University; he was physician to Guy's Hospital from that year till 1811. In his private practice he was one of London's leading doctors, universally admired for his skill and charitable aid, honoured by being elected fellow by special grace of the Royal College of Physicians of London (1827), and awarded an honorary MD by TCD (1831).
He is, however, remembered chiefly as a mineralogist. Early in his career he acquired a large collection of minerals, and in studying these devised a novel system of classification, based more on chemical composition than on crystal form. He published Systematic arrangement of minerals (1795) and New system of mineralogy (1799); his theories have since been superseded, but Babington's importance in founding the Geological Society of London is still acknowledged. Informal early-morning meetings at his house in Aldermanbury, London, led to the launch of the society (1807); he was president in 1822, and contributed to its museum, its library, and its transactions. His influence on the development of the new science was considerable. He also helped found (1816) the Hunterian Society for medical discussion and was elected FRS in 1805. Babington died 29 April 1833, probably from overwork during an influenza epidemic; a monument to him was erected by public subscription in St Paul's cathedral.
He married (21 July 1787) Martha Elizabeth Hough; they had five daughters and eight sons, one of whom was Benjamin Guy Babington, a distinguished doctor, inventor of the laryngoscope, and a scholar of oriental languages. A second son was also a doctor, and a daughter married another prominent medical man.