- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Robert Adams

Born  1791
Died  1875

Related eponyms

Irish surgeon, born 1791, Dublin; died January 13 or 16, 1875, Dublin.

Biography of Robert Adams

Robert Adams received his education at Trinity College, Dublin, which he attended from 1810, becoming baccalaureus in 1814. The same year he entered the university, he became apprenticed to William Hartigan, the leading Dublin surgeon of his time, and after the death of Hartigan in 1813, came to George Stewart, surgeon-general to the British Army in Ireland.

Adams subsequently studied medicine on the Continent and returned to Dublin where he established his practice and served as surgeon to Jervis Street Hospital and Richmond Hospital. In 1818 he was appointed member of the Irish College of Surgeons, in 1832 had his Magister artium and in 1842 - finally - became a doctor of medicine.

Together with two other physicians, John Kirby (1781-1853) and Read, Adams was instrumental in the organization and establishment of the Peter Street School of medicine. He soon separated from them, however, to found the Richmond School of Medicine in cooperation with Richard Carmichael (1779-1849) and MacDowell, in 1826. This school, associated with the Richmond Hospital in Dublin, was subsequently renamed Carmichael School of Medicine and Surgery.

Adams taught at this school for several years, and here originated the works that were to secure for him a place in medical history, above all Diseases of the Heart, published in Dublin Hospital Report. Emphasizing the value of postmortem examination, Adams correlated clinical and pathological observations in cases of pneumonia, hernia, joint disease, ulcers, apoplexy, vascular disorders, and rheumatic gout. It was especially his research on arthritis/gout that made him famous - he himself suffered from it for years. He described it in 1857 in a popular work entitled A Treatise on Rheumatic Gout, or Chronic Rheumatic Arthritis of All the Joints. His name is now chiefly remembered for the Adams-Stoke's syndrome

An esteemed figure in the Irish medical establishment, Adams was elected president of both the Royal College of Surgeons and the Dublin Pathological Society. In 1861, at the age of seventy, following the death of James William Cusack (1788-1862), Adams was appointed Surgeon in Ordinary to the queen in Ireland, and the same year, Regius Professor of surgery at the University of Dublin. He died on January 13 or 16, 1875.

Based on clinical observation of a 68-year old cardiac patient, Adams described a syndrome in which cerebral symptoms and attenuated pulse occurred in association with the approach of heart block. Dublin physician William Stokes confirmed the pathology several decades later as a syndrome characterized by attacks of unconsciousness, slow pulse, and occasionally convulsive seizures or uncontrollable giddiness. Acknowledging prior clinical reports, the syndrome is now called Adams-Stokes disease, and occasionally Morgagni-Adams-Stokes disease, in reference to the findings of Italian anatomist Giovanni Battista Morgagni, which preceded those of Adams.


  • Cases of Diseases of the Heart, Accompanied with Pathological Observations. 1827. This work includes a number of significant findings. Adams reported the relationship of pericardiaal adhesion to muscular hypertrophy (the presence of dense fibrous tissue between the pericardian and the heart) the overgrowth of a muscle, due to enlargement of individual cells); and associated the heading of tissue in the coronary vessels with angina.
  • A Treatise on Rheumatic Gout, or Chronic Rheumatic Arthritis, of All the Joints.
    London, J. Churchill, 1857. His most important textbook.
  • Illustrations of the Effects of Rheumatic Gout. London, 1857.

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.