- A dictionary of medical eponyms

John Braxton Hicks

Born  1823
Died  1897

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English gynaecologist, born 1823, Rye, Sussex; died August 28, 1897, Lymington.

Biography of John Braxton Hicks

John Braxton Hicks was the son Edward Hicks, a banker from Lymington in Hampshire and a justice of the peace. From the age of twelve to fifteen he was educated as a private pupil of Reverend J. O. Zelwood of Compton Rectory near Winchester. As a boy he developed a keen interest in the natural sciences and amassed a superb collection of botanical specimens.

He was apprenticed to Dr. Charles Fluder of Lymington, and when 18 entered Guy’s Hospital Medical School. Here he was a favourite pupil of Sir William Gull. He was a brilliant student, winning many prizes and honours, and a successful oarsman. He graduated M.B. in 1847 from the University of London. Soon after he obtained the diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons, and in 1851 was conferred Doctor of Medicine at the University.

At first, wishing to marry, he entered general practice in Tottenham in partnership with Mr. W. Moon and was very suceesful. However, in 1859 he accepted an invitation to become an assistant obstetric physician at Guy’s Hospital. In the same year he gained his membership in the Royal College of Physicians of London, being elected a fellow in 1866. He was a member of the Society's council and 1871 president of the London Obstetrical Society. He also held diplomas from the Royal College of Surgeons and the Society of Apothecaries. Braxton Hicks was also an honorary member of several foreign obstetrical societies.

He was physician accoucheur at Guy’s Hospital from 1868-1883, from 1870 senior obstetric physician and lecturer in obstetrics at the school. In 1883, by reason of the age limit, he retired from these posts and was elected consulting obstetric physician. However, in 1888 ha acceded to the request to become obstetric physician to St. Mary’s Hospital, succeeding Alfred Meadows (1833-1887). For many years he was also physician to the Royal Maternity Charity, and, for a time, physician for the Royal Hospital for Women and Children in Waterloo Road.

Braxton Hicks was a pioneer figure in British midwifery and published extensively both on external and internal manipulative procedures, as well as designing obstetric instruments and studying the physiology of uterine function. He presented numerous papers to the Royal Society on lichen mosses and unicellular algae and was joint author on a book on the earthworm and housefly, in which he did the engraving.

Besides his medical and scientific interests he had a superb collection of botanical specimens and Wedgwood china and was a vestryman in the Parish of St. George, Hanover Square. He was described as an amiable man with a cheerful expression, and bright piercing eyes. A careful, sympathetic physician who showed great consideration for the welfare of his patients,

He also had a fine collection of Wedgwood china and was for several years a vestryman in the Parish of St George, Hanover Square. Among the many honours that came his way were: the fellowship of the Linnaean Society (1852) and of the Royal Society (1861); honorary fellowships of the Obstetric Societies of Berlin, Edinburgh, Philadelphia and London, and of the Gynaecological Society of Boston and the American Gynecological Society. He was President of the Obstetrical Society of London in 1871-2 and of the Hunterian Society in 1879.

On retiring from medical practice, Braxton Hicks returned to the New Forest and his home, the Brackens, in Lymington. There he died in 1897, at the age of 74, after a three month illness brought on by influenza and the development of diabetes and heart block.


  • On a new method of version in abnormal labour. The Lancet 1860, 2: 28-30.
  • Further illustrations of the new method of version. The Lancet, 1861, 1: 134-.
  • Cauliflower excrescence. Guy’s Hospital Reports, London, 1861.
  • On combined external and internal version.
    Transactions of the Obstetrical Society of London, 1864, 5: 219-267.
    German translation by Ludwig Wilhelm Kueneke (1831-1883), Göttingen, 1865.
  • On the condition of the uterus in obstructed labour, and an enquiry as to what is intended by the terms "cessation of labour pains", "powerless labour", and "exhaustion".
    Transactions of the Obstetrical Society of London, (1867), 1868, 9: 207-239.
    Introduction of combined podalic version.
  • Cases of transfusion, with some remarks on a new method of performing the operation. Guy’s Hospital Reports, London, 1869, 14: 1-14.
  • Contribution to the knowledge of puerperal diseases.
    Transactions of the Obstetrical Society of London, 1869.
  • Some remarks on the cephalotribe.
    Transactions of the Obstetrical Society of London, 1870, 11 (1): 143-.
  • On the contractions of the uterus throughout pregnancy: their physiological effects and their value in the diagnosis of pregnancy.
    Transactions of the Obstetrical Society of London, (1871), 1872, 13: 216-231.
  • Uterine polypi. Guy’s Hospital Reports, London.
  • On auxiliary forces concerned in the circuulation of the pregnant uterus; supplementary forces concerned in the abdominal circulation in man.
    Proceedings of the Royal Society, 1879.
  • Further remarks on the use of the intermittent contractions of the pregnant uterus as a means of diagnosis.
    Transactions of the International Medical Congress, London, 1881, 4: 271.
  • On intermittent contractions in uterine fibromata, and pregnant uterus, in relation to diagnosis.
    The Medical Press and Circular, 1894, 108: 481.

    Obituaries, biographical:
  • British Medical Journal, 1897, II: 618.
  • Julius Leopold Pagel (1851-1912), publisher:
    Biographisches Lexikon hervorragender Ärzte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts.
    Urban & Schwarzenberg, Berlin and Vienna, 1901.
  • August Hirsch (1817-1894), publisher:
    Biographisches Lexikon der hervorragenden Ärzte aller Zeiten und Völker.
    2nd edition. Berlin, Urban & Schwarzenberg, 1929.
    First published in 6 volumes 1884-1888. 3rd edition, München 1962.
  • C. J. Cullingworth:
    Selected Essays and Monographs.
    New Sydenham Society. Publication 173: 93-118. London, 1901. With bibliography.
  • John Braxton Hicks. The Lancet 1897, 2: 692.
  • J. H. Young:
    John Braxton Hicks (1823-1897).
    Medical History, London, April 1960, 4 (2): 153-162.
  • John Braxton Hicks (1823-1897). JAMA, June 23, 1969, 208 (12): 2331-2332.
  • 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.
  • Peter M Dunn
    John Braxton Hicks (1823-97) and painless uterine contractions.
    Archives of Disease in Childhood. Fetal and Neonatal Edition, London, 1999, 81: 157-158.

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