Leared, Arthur (1822–79), physician and traveller, was born in Wexford, son of Richard Leared, merchant. He graduated BA (1845), MB (1847), and MD (1860) from TCD, became licentiate of the RCSI (1846), and was admitted MD ad eundem from Oxford University (1861). He worked briefly at the Meath Hospital, Dublin, with William Stokes (qv) and Robert Graves (qv) before his appointment as medical officer at Oulart dispensary in Co. Wexford. In 1851 he travelled to India but left in 1852 owing to poor health, and established a practice in London, where he became a member (1854) and was elected fellow (1871) of the Royal College of Physicians. During the Crimean war he served as physician to the British civil hospital at Smyrna and subsequently visited the Holy Land. Returning to London, he was appointed physician to the Great Northern Hospital and the Royal Infirmary for Diseases of the Chest and was associated with other hospitals and dispensaries; he also lectured at the Grosvenor Place School of Medicine on the practice of medicine and materia medica. Author of articles on a variety of subjects, including tuberculosis, cardiology, and gastroenterology, he described the mechanism of fat digestion in his pioneering paper ‘On the pancreatic juice in relation to the digestion of fat’ (Medical Times and Gazette, viii (1854), 568–70), and established his reputation with The causes and treatment of imperfect digestion (1860); the seventh edition (1882) was edited by his wife, M. J. Leared. His major contribution to medical knowledge was the invention of the biaural stethoscope, which was exhibited at the great exhibition in London in 1851; he established his priority in a letter to the Lancet (ii (2 Aug. 1856), 138) in the face of other claimants. Leared was elected MRIA (1852) and fellow of the Pathological Society, the Medical Society of London, the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society, and the Royal Geographical Society. Kind, scholarly, congenial, and widely known outside his profession, he enjoyed a large circle of literary, scientific, and artistic friends.
An enthusiastic and intrepid traveller, he toured Iceland four times between 1862 and 1874, became proficient in the language, and published ‘A plan for the prevention of the fatal cystic disease of Iceland’ in Icelandic and in the Medical Times and Gazettte (12 Sept. 1863, 270–71), and was a member of the Icelandic Literary Society and the British Scandinavian Society. He visited America in 1870 and Morocco in 1872, describing his experiences in Morocco and the Moors (1876). This was well reviewed; a second revised edition, published posthumously (1891) by the famous explorer Sir Richard Burton (1821–90), described it as the work of ‘a learned physician, a skilled practitioner, and an observer of no common powers’ (Coakley, 193). Accompanied by his wife, Leared returned to Morocco in 1877 as physician to the Portuguese ambassador; he obtained a safe conduct from the sultan bearing the imperial talisman (a privilege not given to any previous traveller), explored remote parts of the country, not without danger, and identified the site of the Roman city of Volubilis, a description of which appeared as an appendix in his A visit to the court of Morocco (London, 1879). He collected specimens of materia medica, and John Ball (qv) printed his list of plants in ‘Spicilegium florae Maroccanae’ (Linnean Society Journal, ‘Botany’, xvi (1878), 281–742). Often overwhelmed with patients, who expected instant cures from him as a European doctor, he described the various devices he employed, with no possibility of healing, but with the sole object of making an impression. Convinced of the excellence of the climate for patients suffering from tuberculosis, he acquired land in Tangier, intending to build a sanatorium, and returned there in 1879; but he fell ill and died 16 October 1879 of typhoid fever at his home, 12 Old Burlington St., London. A marble bust by George Simonds is in the Royal College of Physicians, London. No details of his family life have been found.