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Biographical entry Hawkins, Caesar Henry (1798 - 1888)

M.R.C.S. Dec. 7th, 1821; F.R.C.S. Dec. 11th, 1843, one of the original 300 Fellows; FRS, June 9th, 1856.

Born
19 September 1798
Bisley, Gloucestershire, UK
Died
20 July 1888
London, UK
Occupation
Anatomist and General surgeon

Details

One of the ten children of the Rev. Edward Hawkins, grandson of Sir Caesar Hawkins, Bart. (1711-1786), Surgeon to St. George's Hospital and Serjeant-Surgeon to George II and George III, who was descended from Colonel Caesar Hawkins, commanding a regiment of horse for Charles I.

Caesar Hawkins was born on Sept. 19th, 1798, at Bisley, Gloucestershire, and, his father having died whilst he was still young, he was sent to Christ's Hospital (the Bluecoat School), where he remained from 1807-1813, when he had to be withdrawn as he was not destined for either Oxford or Cambridge. He was apprenticed to Mr. Sheppard, of Hampton Court, then the medical attendant of the Duke of Clarence, afterwards King William IV, who lived at Bushey Park. At the end of his indentures in 1818 he was admitted a student at St. George's Hospital under Sir Everard Home and Benjamin Brodie, and attended the chemistry classes of Michael Faraday at the Royal Institution. As soon as he had qualified he began to teach anatomy at the Hunterian or Windmill Street School of Medicine, having Sir Charles Bell as his colleague. He was elected Surgeon to St. George's Hospital on Feb. 13th, 1829, and resigned in 1861, when he was appointed Consulting Surgeon. In 1862 he was gazetted Serjeant-Surgeon to Queen Victoria, and was thus the fourth member of his family to hold a like office.

He was a Member of the Council from 1846-1863, and of the Court of Examiners from 1849-1866; was Chairman of the Midwifery Board in 1860; delivered the Hunterian Oration in 1849, when H R H the Prince Consort honoured the College with his presence; was Vice-President in 1850, 1851, 1859, 1860; President in 1852 and again in 1861; and Representative of the College on the General Medical Council from 1865-1870. In 1871 he was elected a Trustee of the Hunterian Museum. He was elected F.R.S. on June 9th, 1856.

He married: (1) Miss Dolbel, and (2) Miss Ellen Rouse, but left no issue by either. He died on July 20th, 1884, at his house, 26 Grosvenor Street.

As a surgeon Hawkins attained eminence and achieved success, his opinion being especially sought in complex cases. For long he was noted as the only surgeon who had succeeded in the operation of ovariotomy in a London hospital. This occurred in 1846, when anaesthetics were unknown. He did much to popularize colotomy. A successful operator, he nevertheless was attached to conservative surgery, and he was always more anxious to teach his pupils how to save a limb than how to remove it. Long after he had become Consulting Surgeon to his hospital he continued to be a familiar figure on the wards, where he gave his colleagues the benefit of his lifelong experience.

Caesar Hawkins was a man of sterling worth and merit, as well as of great capacity. His family was, indeed, distinguished for talent, as evidenced by the fact, above alluded to, that four of them rose to the rank of Serjeant-Surgeon. Two of Caesar Hawkin's own brothers were men of mark - Edward (1794-1877) the well-known Provost of Oriel who played so great a part in the life of Oxford during the Tractarian Movement, and Dr. Francis Hawkins, the first Registrar of the General Medical Council, who was known as one of the best classical scholars among the physicians of his time. His nephew Sir John Caesar Hawkins (1837-1929), Canon of St. Albans, was the author of the well known Horae Synopticae.

Hawkins was not remarkable for graciousness of demeanour on a first acquaintance - in fact, most men complained of him as somewhat dry and repellent under these circumstances. But this vanished on a closer acquaintance, when his genuine kindness of heart and sincerity became recognized. Everyone knew how firm a friend he was to those who had earned his friendship, and how trustworthy a counsellor, and he ended his days amid the universal respect and regard of the many who had been his colleagues and pupils. One of the latter, when addressing students of St. George's at the opening of the session of 1885, thus concluded a reference to the examples left them by their predecessors in the school:-

"I would point out to you, as an example of what I mean, the great surgeon who has lately passed away from us, full of years and honours, endeared to those who had the happiness of being his pupils by every tie of gratitude and affection, and reverenced by all who can appreciate stainless honour. Caesar Hawkins was rich in friends, who watched and tended the peaceful close of his long and brilliant career. They can testify how well he bore Horace's test of a well-spent life, 'lenior et melior fis accedente senecta' (Epist. ii. 211). The old words involuntarily occur to everyone who contemplates an old age so full of dignity and goodness: 'The path of the just is as a shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day'" (Proverbs v. 18).

He has been described as one of the cleverest minds in the medical profession, a mind of unquestioned accuracy, unswayed by imagination, temper, or desire for renown. No one was more discreet and honest in council, or less influenced by self-interest. A bust by George Halse was presented to the College by Mrs Caesar Hawkins in June, 1855. Photographs are preserved in the College Collection.

PUBLICATIONS:-
Hawkins contributed largely to the medical journals, and reprinted his papers for private circulation under the title, The Hunterian Oration, Presidential Addresses, and Pathological and Surgical Writings, 2 vols., 8vo, 1874. Among these mention may be made of valuable lectures "On Tumours", and of papers on "Excision of the Ovum", "The Relative Claims of Sir Charles Bell and Magendie to the Discovery of the Functions of the Spinal Nerves", "Experiments on Hydrophobia and the Bites of Serpents", "Stricture of the Colon treated by Operation", etc.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Dict. Nat.Biog, sub nomine et auct. ibi cit. MacCormac's Address of Welcome, 1900, 126. Hallett's Catalogue of Portraits and Busts in the Royal College of Surgeons of England, London, 1892.].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England