Hancock, Thomas (1783–1849), doctor, was born 26 March 1783 in Lisburn, Co. Antrim, son of Jacob Hancock and Elizabeth Hancock (née Phelps). The Hancocks, a quaker family, were noted for philanthropy and were prominent in the local linen industry. John Hancock (d. 1764) was his father's brother, and John Hancock (qv) (d. 1823) his cousin; William Neilson Hancock (qv) (d. 1888), was also related. Thomas was educated in a quaker school in Yorkshire, and apprenticed to a surgeon apothecary in Waterford. Here he may have met his future wife, Hannah Strangman, who may have been a relative (her father's middle name was Hancock). They were married in 1810. He studied in Dublin, and took his MD in Edinburgh in June 1806; his thesis dealt with epidemic diseases, a subject on which he published books in 1821 and 1832. He became a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians (London) in 1809, and set up a practice in London the same year. After early discouragements, he became very successful, and (particularly after a spiritual crisis, during which he resolved to resist worldly temptations and live as a strict Friend) was popular among the quakers there. He continued to publish; his works include a consideration of the nature of instinct (1824); he also wrote The principle of peace as embodied in the conduct of the Society of Friends . . . (1825) on the events of the 1798 rebellion in Ireland as they concerned the members of his own denomination. This preserves important eyewitness accounts. Another edition was published in 1838 by the American Peace Society.
After several deaths in his household, including that of his wife Hannah (1828), Hancock moved to Liverpool in 1829, but suffering from heart complaints, retired to Lisburn in 1838. His health improved sufficiently to permit him to publish two papers on local botany, and he sometimes gave free medical advice to poor neighbours. His lifelong concerns included the reform of asylums for the mentally ill and the prevention of epidemic disease by improved sanitation; he also advocated the abolition of capital punishment and of slavery. Verses on his opposition to war appeared in 1818, and he wrote on the subject in quaker periodicals. A visit to Harrogate in Yorkshire in search of health proved unavailing, and his beloved daughter Emma died there in 1841 after much suffering. Hancock himself died 6 April 1849 (or possibly 16 April (Freeman's Journal, 24 Apr. 1849); his son Thomas and a daughter Elizabeth survived him, out of a family of four sons and four daughters. Elizabeth died the following year, unmarried.