- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Thomas George Morton

Born  1835
Died  1903

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American surgeon, born August 8, 1835, Philadelphia; died May 20, 1903.

Biography of Thomas George Morton

Thomas George Morton was the son of Samuel George Morton (1799-1851), professor of anatomy at Pennsylvania College. He chose the same career as his father, qualifying as doctor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in 1856. In 1857 he became head physician at the Pennsylvania Hospital and trained particularly in surgery. Following some years of training in surgery he took an active part in the American civil war, when he distinguished himself as an outstanding operator, but most of all as a hospital administrator. He was the driving force behind several military hospitals, for which he achieved nationwide renown. From 1862 to 1865, with David Hayes Agnew (1818-1892), headed the largest war hospital in the United States, with 500 beds, at Mary Hospital at Philadelphia. From 1859 to 1874 he was a surgeon with the Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia (founded 1832).

On November 12, 1861, he married Ann Jenks Kirkbride in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Morton was professor of clinical and operative surgery at the Philadelphia Clinic for Graduates, his lectures attracting thousands of students. On April 27, 1886, Morton was one of the first to remove an appendix after a correct diagnosis with the patient surviving.

Morton founded several hospitals, among them Philadelphia Orthopaedic Hospital, and the Infirmary for Nervous Diseases, the latter wit Silas Weir Mitchell (1829-1914). He was a member of the board of several organisations of various purposes, one of them the Pennsylvanian Society for the Restriction of Vivisection, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Thomas Morton was also a prolific writer on diverse medical themes. His paper "The transfusion of blood and its practical application" was considered a standard work. But it is his work on metatarsalgia, published in 1876, for which he is still remembered. Morton died in 1903, at the age of 68 years, of cholera.

We thank W. Morton for information submitted.


  • Frank Woodbury:
    Cases of exploratory laparotomy followed by appropriate remedial operation.
    Transactions of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 1887, 9: 183.
    Morton was one of the first deliberately to operate for and remove the inflamed appendix after correct diagnosis, April 1887. The patient survived. Case reported by Woodbury. Thomas George Morton:
  • Lecture on the transfusion of blood and its practical application.
    New York, 1877.
  • History of the Surgery of the Pennsylvania Hospital. With Hunt. 1880.
  • The History of Pennsylvania Hospital, 1751-1895.
    Times Printing House, 1895 In American Journal of Medical Sciences, 1865 to 1879:
  • Orbital aneurusmal diseases.
  • Hip-joint amputations.
  • Axillary aneurisms.
  • Impure air in hospital wards, with description of ward carriage.
  • Account of the mortality which followed for forty years amputations in the Pennsylvania hospital.
  • Excision of os calcis and astralgus etc.
  • Case of complete osseus ankylosis of knee at right angle, cured by excision.
  • Excision of nerves.
  • Transfusion of blood.
  • Description of bed elevator.
  • Five years’ amputations.
  • Ligations of large arteries at Pennsylvania hospital etc.
  • Deaths from ether etc.
  • System of forced ventilation at the Pennsylvania hospital.
  • Account of a worm, the dracunculus «Loa» removed from the human eye. In Pennsylvania Hospital Reports 1868-1869:
  • Review of ligations of large arteries.
  • Case of congenital sacral tumor containing an intragrowth of foetal remains.
  • Account of cases of stone in the bladder, treated by lithotomy and lithotripsy.

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