- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Francis Sibson

Born  1814
Died  1876

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English surgeon, born May 21, 1814, Cross-Canonby, Cumberland (now Cumbria); died September 7, 1876, Geneva, Switzerland.

Biography of Francis Sibson

Francis Sibson grew up in Edinburgh, where his parents had moved in 1819. At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to John Lizars, surgeon and anatomist. He received his diploma from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (LRCS) in 1831. After treating cholera patients during an outbreak in 1831-1832, he practiced for å short time at Cockermouth, Cumberland, before resuming his medical studies at Guy's and St Thomas's Hospitals in London.

As part of his studies he spent some time, in 1833, in the pathology department of Guy's, where he became a friend and pupil of Thomas Hodgkin (1798-1866). Sibson qualified licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries (LSA) in 1835, and became resident surgeon and apothecary to the Nottingham General Hospital, a position in which he remained for 13 years. He becam Baccalaureate at the University of London in 1848, where he also received his medical doctorate and a gold medal that year. In 1849 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the Royal College of Physicians, a fellow from 1853.

From 1835 Sibson was resident Surgeon-Apothecary at Nottingham. Together with the naturalist and explorer Charles Waterton (1782-1862) Sibson demonstrated the action of wourali to the Nottingham doctors. Waterton and Sibson used a dog and two asses to demonstrate the effects of wourali and the effectiveness of artificial respiration. The two asses each received the poison in a shoulder. Sibson with four assistants applied artificial respiration 16−18 times a minute through bellows inserted into the trachea, for 7.50 h in one ass and 2 h in the other. Both recovered.

Sibson settled in Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, and built up a successful private practice. In 1851 he became physician in St. Mary’s Hospital, which had been newly founded, and lectured on medicine at the hospital's medical school. In 1854 he delivered the Goulstonian Lectures at the Royal College of Physicians. Sibson's main interest was in trying to envisage the viscera both in a healthy and diseased state. His idea of 'medical anatomy' was to teach the topographical anatomy of the healthy viscera on the dead body, in order that the pathology student was always familiar with the position and movement of the organs.

In 1865 Sibson was elected to the senate of London University, in which he opposed the admission of women to degrees. In 1870 he delivered the Croonian Lectures at the Royal College of Physicians. The following year he retired from the active staff of St Mary's and became consulting physician.

A major part of Sibson efforts concerned the physiology and pathology of the respiratory organs, and he reputedly possessed an extraordinary exactness in the diagnostics of diseases of the chest.

Sibson married Sarah Mary Ouvry in 1858. He was a keen Alpine climber and died suddenly whilst on holiday at Geneva, on 7 September 1876.


  • A Flexible Stethoscope. Medical Gazette, 1840.
  • On the position of the internal organs in health and disease.
    Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal and Retrospect of the of the Medical Sciences, London, 1844.
  • On the mechanism of respiration.
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1846.
  • On pericarditis. London Journal of Medicine, 1849.
  • On the falling in of the chest during inspiration in some diseases of the chest. Address red to the Westminster Medical Society, 1849.
  • Causes which excite the respiration in health and disease.
    Transactions of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association, London, 1851.
  • Medical anatomy, or, illustrations of the relative poristions and movements of the internal organs.
    7 parts, London, J. Churchill, 1854-1869.
    This highly merited work was the result of enormous labour and research.
  • On treatment of acute rheumatism and gout by rest.
    Lecture at the meeting of the British Medical Association in Newcastle in July (or June?) 1870.
  • Lectures on the influence of distention of the abdomen on the heart and lungs.
    The British Medical Journal, London, 1873.
  • Collected works. Edited by W. M. Ord., London, 1881.
  • J. R. Malby:
    Francis Sibson, 1814-1876. Pioneer and prophet in anaesthesia.
    Anaesthesia, January 1977, 32 (1): 53-62.
  • J. E. Hughes:
    Francis Sibson. The Medical Journal of Australia, April 9, 1977, 1 (15):m545-546.
  • Sibson, Francis (1814-1876).
    On: http://www.aim25.ac.uk/cgi-bin/search2?coll_id=7157&inst_id=8
    (Royal College of Physicians, home page.

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