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James Wardrop

Born  1782
Died  1869

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British surgeon, born August 14, 1782, Torbane Hill, Linlinthgow, West Lothian district, Lothian region, Scotland; died February 13, 1869.

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.


  • An Essay on the Morbid Anatomy of the Human Eye.
    2 volumes; Edinburgh, G. Ramsay & Co., 1808-1818. With 7 color plates.
  • Observations on the Fungus Haematodes, or soft Cancer, in Several of the Most important Organs of the Human Body; etc.
    Edinburgh, 1809.
    German translation by C. G. Kuehn, Leipzig, 1817.
    Dutch by A. van der Hout, Amsterdam, 1819. In the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal:
  • Case of crural hernia, in which the obturator artery surrounded the mouth of the sac. 1806.
  • Observations on the effects of evacuating the aqueous humour in inflammation of the eyes.
    1807. Also separately, new editon, 1818.
  • Dissection of two cases, in which a moveable body was found within the cavity of the vaginal coat of the testis. 1807.
  • Practical observations on the mode of making the incision of the cornea, for the extraction of the cataract. 1809.
  • Case of palsy cured by titillation; with some observations on the effects of titillation on the nervous system. 1812.
  • Dissection of an albuminous concretion which was found in the cavity of the thorax, loosely adhering to the pleura pulmonalis; etc. 1813. Lectures on surgery.
    Lancet 1832-1833.
    Lectures delivered at the New Theatre, Aldersgate-street. 1832, I:
  • Lecture 1, pages 50-55:
    On the classification of diseases; or, nosology.
  • Lecture 2, pages 128-136:
    On the sanguinous system generally and the blood in particular.
  • Lecture 3, pages 236-242:
    On the abstraction of blood; local bleeding.
  • Lecture 4, pages 577-583:
    The abstraction of blood (continued); general bleeding.
  • Lecture 5:
    The abstraction of blood (continued); general bleeding.
  • Lecture 6:
    The abstraction of blood (continued); different modes employed. 1833, II: communications from Wardrop, page 421;
    on surgical lectures by Wardrop, 21;
    on the objects of surgery, the duties of surgeons, and medical operations, 453;
    on the causes of danger in operations, 517;
    on operations of scrofulous and gouty persons, 518;
    on the differences in temperament in operations, 520;
    on the effects of age in operations, 522;
    on the treatment proper previous to operations, 591;
    on the influence of atmosphere, seasons, and time of day, on operations, 594;
    on the mode of conducting operations, 594;
    on the instruments to be used in operations, 595;
    on the assistance necessary in operations, 595;
    on the modes of alleviating pain in operations, 596;
    on the utility of syncope in operations, 649;
    on hemorhhage from wounds in operations, 650;
    on the effect of venesection in operations, 652;
    on the treatment of the wound in operations, 653;
    on diet after operations, 654;
    on the pernicious results of improper food after operations, 654; on the evil effects of stimulating drinks after operations, 656;
    on the evils of wine and cordials in operations, 709;
    on the necessity of quiet after operations, 709;
    on the salutary effect of some degree of moral excitement after operations, 710;
    on the exhibition of medicines after operations, 711;
    on the consecutive treatment of the wounds in operations in different constitutions, 712;
    excellence of the lectures, 479;
    note on the lectures, 740.
    From the editors of Lancet, 1832-33, volume II, July 6, 1833: Although these lectures have not been re-delivered since the year 1830, the author has taken frequent opportunities of revising them, and of using his best endeavours to entitle them to the attention of the profession generally. He, at the same time, may remark that he has selected only such lectueres and such parts of them as he has deemed most worthy of publication. In the Medico-Chirurgical Transactions, London:
  • On the effects of evacuating the aqueous humor in inflammation of the eyes, and in some disease of the cornea. 1813.
  • History of a diseased metacarpal bone, removed by an operation, with the description of an instrument for sawing off the extremities of portions of long bones. 1813.
  • An account of some diseases of the toes and fingers, with observation on their treatment. 1814.
  • Case where a seton was introduced between the fractured ends of a femur, which had not united in the usual manner; etc. 1814.
  • On the laceration of the fibres of muscles, particularly of the external gastrocnemius. 1816.
  • Account of a case where a severe nervous affection came on after a punctured wound of the finger, and in which amputation was successfully performed. 1817.
  • Some observations on one species of naevus maternus, with the case of an infant where the carotid artery was tied. 1818.
  • Account of the rheumatic inflammation of the eye; etc. 1818.
  • Some observations on a mode of performing operations on irritable patients, etc. 1819.
  • Case of a large naevus maternus on the head, cured by tying the carotid artery. 1822.
  • Case of a wounded nerve of the thumb, followed by severe symptoms, which were relieved by a division of the nerve. 1822.
  • Case of carotid aneurism, successfully treated by tying the artery above the aneurismal tumor. Medico-Chirurgical Transactions, London, 1827; 13: 217-226.
    This paper was expanded into a book:
    On Aneurism and Its Cure by a New Operation. London, Longman, 1818.
    German translation in the Chirurgische Handbibliothek, Weimar 1829; XI.
  • History of James Mitchell, a boy born blind and deaf; with an account of the operation performed for the recovery of his sight. Edinburgh, 1813.
  • Case of a Lady born Blind, who received Sight at an advanced age by the formation of an Artificial Pupil.
    Read before the Royal Society on June 15, 1826. Lancet, London, 1826, I: 728.
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1826.?
  • Morbid anatomy of the human eye.
    London, 1834. An unchanged new edition of his previous work, disregarding advances since then.
  • On blood-letting. An coount of the curative effects of the abstractions of blood; etc.
    London, 1834.
    American edition, Philadelphia, 1837.
    German translation in [Behrend’s] Bibliothek von Vorlesungen der vorzüglichsten und berühmtesten Lehrer des Auslandes über Medizin u.s.w.14 volumes, Leipzig, 1840; Italian, Pisa, 1839.
  • On the nature and treatment of diseases of the heart; with some new views of the physiology of the circulation.
    London, 1837; new edition, 1860.

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