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Robert William Smith

Born  1807
Died  1873

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Irish surgeon, born October 12, 1807, Dublin; died October 28, 1873.

Biography of Robert William Smith

Robert William Smith studied medicine in Dublin, his native town, and became a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland in 1832, fellow in 1844. He received his doctorate at Trinity College in 1842, and in 1847 he was appointed to the first chair of surgery at Trinity College, becoming a member a member of the Irish Academy in 1849. He was successively surgeon at the hospital for the mentally ill, founded by Talbot, with Sir Patrick Dun’s and the Richmond Hospital, teaching clinical surgery and forensic medicine at the latter for several years. The excellent museum of the Richmond Hospital was made possible by his efforts. He founded the pathological society in Dublin in 1838 was its secretary for 35 years, and thus had excellent opportunity to collect pathological preparations. At the time oh his death in 1873 he was vice-president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland. With Abraham Colles (1773-1843), Robert James Graves (1797-1853), Sir Dominic John Corrigan (1802-1880) and William Stokes, Smith founded the Dublin Pathological Society.

A major part of Smith’s work concerned the pathological anatomy of surgical diseases, particularly of knuckles and joints. He took a special interest in rare forms of congenital Verrenkungen.


  • Contributions to the Pathological Anatomy of the Heart and Great Vessels.
    Dublin Medical Journal, 1836.
  • Essay on Congenital Luxations of the Shoulder. Dublin Medical Journal, 1839.
  • On Congenital Luxations of the Lower Jaw. Dublin Medical Journal, 1842.
  • A Treatise on Fractures in the Vicinity of Joints and on Certain Forms of Accidental and Congenital Dislocations.
    Dublin, 1847; Dublin and New York, 1854; Philadelphia, 1850.
    The first important work on fractures by an Irish author. It includes the description of Smith's fracture. In his chapter "On fractures of the bones of the forearm in the vicinity of the wrist joint" Smith corrected Colles's original description by placing the site of the fracture more distally. It was Smith who firmly attached Colles's eponym to the fracture that Colles described.
  • A Treatise on the Pathology, Diagnosis and Treatment of Neuroma.
    Dublin, Hodges & Smith, 1849.
    This book was said to be so large that it was larger than an ordinary sized dinning-room table when opened up.
    Includes a full description of generalised neurofibromatosis – Recklinghausen's disease.
  • Injuries of lower end of humerus. Dublin Medical Journal, 1850.
  • Luxations backwards of the tibia at the ankle. Dublin Medical Journal, 1857.
  • Chronic rheumatic arthritis of the shoulder. 1858.

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