"like Ward's pill, flies at once to that particular part of the body on which you desire to operate"

Joshua Ward
Public DomainJoshua Ward - Credit: Carlini
Joshua Ward was an English quack in the 1700s. His famous Ward’s Pill and Ward’s Drop comprised balsam and antimony, a toxin which produced violent sweating and other symptoms. At the time, this was perceived to be a good thing.  Ward claimed that his products could cure everything from cancer and gout to scurvy and syphilis. 

He made a great deal of money from his dubious cures, which were sought after among London’s high society.  His most famous patients included King George II and Horace Walpole. 

Ward was extremely generous with the fortune he made from his ‘medicines.’  He bought three houses in Pimlico and converted them into a hospital for his poor patients.  Large crowds resorted to him daily, and it became the habit of many ladies of fashion to sit before his doors distributing his medicine to all comers.

He was however devoid of any medical learning, and his pill and drop remedies quite likely killed as many as they cured. Nonetheless, when the 1748 apothecaries act was introduced into parliament to restrain unlicensed persons from compounding medicines, a clause was inserted specially exempting Ward by name from the restrictions imposed.