- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Joseph Sampson Gamgee

Born  1828
Died  1886

Related eponyms

English physician, born April 17, 1828, Livorno, Italy; died September 18, 1886.

Biography of Joseph Sampson Gamgee

Joseph Sampson Gamgee was the son of a British veterinary surgeon from Edinburgh who practised in Livorno (Leghorn), Italy. Following education on the continent he became interested in veterinary surgery and wrote several papers, the first when he was 16. His topics were the calcified testicle of a ram and ossified enchondroma of the testicle of a stallion. He studied veterinary medicine from 1846, qualifying in 1849, and then began medical studies at University College Hospital in London. For a period he shared lodgings with Joseph Lister (1827-1912) – later Baron Lister of Lyme Regis – the founder of antiseptic surgery. While he studied medicine, Gamgee practised as a veterinary. He became a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1854, subsequently a Fellow of the College of Surgeons in Edinburgh. He worked at the Royal Free Hospital.

Being multi-lingual, Gamgee travelled widely throughout Europe for further studies in Paris, Brussels, Vienna, Florence and Pavia. In Paris he became a friend of Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) and worked at the University of Paris. Gamgee worked for a period as a surgeon at University College Hospital, and then tended the wounded from the Crimean War (1853-1856) at the Anglo-Italian Hospital in Malta.

Most of Gamgee's professional life was spent in Birmingham. He came there in 1857 and was elected to the medical staff of The Queen’s Hospital, founded in 1841. Here he performed a successful amputation of a man's leg at the hip joint. The man, a former coal miner, had an enormous growth on the femur with a weight of more than two thirds the weight of the man himself.

Gamgee was interested in all hospital matters and is remembered for his great efforts to improve hospital conditions, and occasioned the building of a new hospital wing. Due to ailing health he resigned his position at Queen's Hospital in 1881, when he was appointed consultant surgeon. Gamgee had a great knowledge of literature and was a busy and elegant writer as well as an outstanding speaker -and hard-working surgeon.

It has been said that John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) used the surgeon's name for Sam Gamgee, Frodo Baggin's faithful companion in The Lord of the Rings. However, this is not the case, according to one of Gamgee's descendants:

    "I had a great uncle Sam who wrote to Tolkien about this. Tolkien replied and said he was sorry, the name wasn't based on anyone, he didn't even know Gamgee was a real surname!" Ela Gamgee
In Birmingham, Gamgee is the local name for cotton wool.


  • On Pyaemia. London. 1853.
  • On the Advantage of the Starched Apparatus in the Treatment of Fractures and Diseases of Joints: being the first part of an essay to which the Council of University College have awarded the Liston clinical medal. London, H. K. Lewis, 1853. 89 pages.
    We do not know if "have awarded" is Gamgee's spelling error or a typo.
  • Reflections upon Petit's operation and on Purgatives after herniotomy.
    London, 1854.
  • The cattle plague and diseased meat, in their relations with the public health etc. 1857.
  • Osservazioni sul regime dietetico dei malati chirurgici.
    Gazzetta medica italiana Toscana, 1854.
  • Pensieri sulle cose medico-chirugiche italiane. Torino, 1856.
  • Researches in pathological anatomy and clinical surgery. 216 pages.
    London, H. Baillière, 1856. Paris, J. A. Baillière. Madrid, Bailly Baillière, 1856.
  • History of a successful case of amputation of the limbs.
    London, 1865. With 4 photographs.
  • On the treatment of fractures of the limbs. London, 1871.
  • On the Treatment of Wounds and Fractures; clinical lectures.
    London, 1878. 2nd edition, 1883.
    American edition: Philadelphia : P. Blakiston Son & Co., 1883. 364 pages.
  • The influence of vivisection on human surgery.London, 1880. 2nd edition 1882.
    A pamphlet defending surgical experiments on animals.
  • Sir Charles Bell and Sir James Simpson; a biographical study. The Birmingham Medical Review, a quarterly journal of the medical, volume 4, 1875.
    Referring to:
    Sir Charles Bell, Scottish anatomist, surgeon, and physiologist, 1774-1842.
    Sir James Young Simpson, 1st Baronet, Scottish obstetrician, 1811-1870.
  • Harvey and Caesalpinus. The Lancet, 1877.
    Referring to: William Harvey, English physician, 1578-1657 - The European discoverer of the circulation.
    Andreas Caesalpinus, Italian botanist and physiologist, 1519-1603.

What is an eponym?

An eponym is a word derived from the name of a person, whether real or fictional. A medical eponym is thus any word related to medicine, whose name is derived from a person.

What is Whonamedit?

Whonamedit.com is a biographical dictionary of medical eponyms. It is our ambition to present a complete survey of all medical phenomena named for a person, with a biography of that person.


Whonamedit? does not give medical advice.
This survey of medical eponyms and the persons behind them is meant as a general interest site only. No information found here must under any circumstances be used for medical purposes, diagnostically, therapeutically or otherwise. If you, or anybody close to you, is affected, or believe to be affected, by any condition mentioned here: see a doctor.