Biography of James Wardrop
b>James Wardrop studied at Edinburgh where he graduated in medicine and was a pupil of his uncle, the distinguished surgeon Andrew Wardrop. At the age of 19 years he became house surgeon in the Royal Infirmary, and subsequently visited Paris and Vienna, attending the lectures of P. Frank (probably Johann Peter Frank, 1745-1821), Georg Prochaska (1749-1820) and Georg Joseph Beer (1763-1821). At the age of 22 he settled in Edinburgh, where he laid the foundations for the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons.
In 1809 Wardrop settled in London, becoming a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of London in 1814. In 1818 he became known for having performed a successful cure on one of the eyes of a horse belonging to the Prince of Wales, and was appointed Surgeon extraordinary to the prince regent. In 1823 he accompanied George IV on his visit to Scotland, and, in 1828, when Sir Astley Paston Cooper (1768-1841) became Sergeant-Surgeon, Wardrop was appointed Surgeon to the King. He had turned down an offer of being knighted.
In 1826 Wardrop founded the West London Hospital of Surgery, which he ran at his own – and very heavy expenses - for eight years. From 1826, with William Lawrence (1783-1867), he gave surgical lectures at the Aldersgate Street Medical School. When Lawrence moved on to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, Wardrop continued the lectures for some years alone. From 1837 he joined the Hunterian School of Medicine, where he gave surgical lectures.
Wardrop was an extremely ill tempered, unpleasant individual, a rather mean character, prawn to scandals, but also humorous and generous towards the indigenous. Never changing his opinion he hurt both his communication with colleagues, and his own practice. He wrote some very sarcastic and venomous papers in the Lancet in 1826-1827. In the same journal, in 1834, in some correspondence called Intercepted letters, he abused some of the leading names of the London medical profession. The letters were allegedly mainly written by H. H. (Sir Henry Halford), B. B. (Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie) and W. Mac. (Dr. Mac Michael, librarian to the College of Physicians). In it Wardrop ridicules the procedures at the Court, from which Wardrop felt excluded. It harmed his reputation.
However, Wardrop was an excellent surgeon and ophthalmologist whose work on the pathological anatomy of the eye was epoch-making. He treated aneurysm by ligation at the distal end of the tumour and performed this operation successfully on two occasions on the carotid artery and once on the subclavian in the case of an innominate aneurysm. He wrote an important monograph on the morbid anatomy of the human eye in 1808 and introduced the term keratitis.
Wardrop wrote the biographies of Benjamin Gibson Manchester, in Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, 1814, and Mathew Baillie (1761-1823), Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, 1825
He published Mathew Baillie’s The Morbid Anatomy of Some of the Most Important Parts of the Human Body (London, 1838). This work was first published in London in 1793. He was a collaborator of the Cyclopaedia of Practical Surgery from 1837. Several years before his death, aged 87, Wardrop had withdrawn from any contact with his professional colleagues.