- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Thomas Blizard Curling

Born  1811
Died  1888

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English physician and surgeon, born January 1, 1811, Tavistock Place, London; died March 4, 1888, Cannes, France.

Biography of Thomas Blizard Curling

Thomas Blizard Curling grew up on Manor House, Chiswick. His father was secretary to the Commissioners of His Majesty’s Customs, a post of considerable dignity and emolument. In 1833, when he had just become a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, Curling was appointed assistant surgeon to the London Hospital due to the influence of his uncle, Sir William Blizard (1743-1835). This was deeply resented by his colleagues, as was his own rather aloof and cool manner.

Curling became a lecturer of surgery in 1846 and from 1849 was full surgeon. He was a member of the council of The Royal College of Surgeons from 1864 and was appointed president in 1873.

In 1843 he won the Jacksonian prize for his investigations on tetanus. He became famous for his skill in treating diseases of the testes and rectum, on which his published works went through many editions. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society from 1850.

He resigned his position as surgeon at the London Hospital in 1869, after almost 36 years of service, and in 1879 retired from practice entirely.

Curling was described as not being brilliant as an operator or as a teacher, but always painstaking and accurate. He was a very strict disciplinarian and a «terror» to the slovenly and slipshod dresser.

Towards the end of his life he was said to be extremely pale and many people felt he was suffering from pernicious anaemia. He retired to Brighton and whilst on holidays in Cannes in the south of France he developed pneumonia and died.

He was stated in one obituary to be a «man of commanding stature and though endowed with the faculty of being all things to all men, was a staunch and sincere friend whom to know was to trust and honour.»


  • A practical treatise on the diseases of the testis, and of the spermatic cord and scrotum.
    London 1843. Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1843.
    This book was first published in London in 1843 and was edited for republication in the United States by Paul Beck Goddard (1811-1866). Goddard made several revisions and additions to the book, and, in the preface, indicated that Curling's book surpasses Sir Astley Paston Cooper's earlier work on the testis.
  • Treatise on tetanus.
    London, 1837; Philadelphia, 1837. Winner of the Jackson Prize.
  • The advantages of ether and chloroform in operative surgery. London, 1848.
  • Two cases of absence of the thyroid body and symmetrical swellings of fat tissue at the sides of the neck, connected with defective cerebral development.
    Medico-Chirurgical Transactions, London, 1850. 33: 303-306.
    Curling was one of the first to present a clinical description of cretinism and to suggest that it was caused by a deficiency of the thyroid gland. William Miller Ord (1834-1902) later coined the term "myxoedema" for this condition
  • Observations on diseases of the rectum. 1851. 4 editions. Biographical and bibliographical:
  • August Hirsch, publisher:
    Biographisches Lexikon der hervorragenden Ärzte aller Zeiten und Völker.
    Urban & Schwarzenberg. 2nd edition, Berlin, 1929.
    First published in 6 volumes 1884-1888. 3rd edition, München 1962.
  • F. S. Lamb, Y. J. Silva, A. J. Walt:
    Thomas Blizard Curling – the man and the ulcer.
    Surgery, April 1971, 69 (4): 646-649.
  • Heirs of Hippocrates. Friends of the University of Iowa Libraries. Iowas City, 1980.
  • Barry G. Firkin and Judith A. Whitworth:
    Dictionary of Medical Eponyms.
    The Parthenon Publishing Group. 1989. New edition in 2002.
  • Jeremy M. Norman, editor:
    Morton’s Medical Bibliography. An annotated Check-list of Texts Illustrating the History of Medicine (Garrison and Morton).
    Fifth edition. Scolar Press, 1991.

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