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Biographical entry Partridge, Richard (1805 - 1873)

M.R.C.S., April 20th, 1827; F.R.C.S., Dec. 11th, 1843, one of the original 300 Fellows; L.S.A., 1827; F.R.S., 1837.

19 January 1805
Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, UK
25 March 1873
General surgeon


The tenth child and seventh son of Samuel Partridge, of Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire. He was born on Jan. 19th, 1805, and was apprenticed in 1821 to his uncle, W. H. Partridge, who practised in Birmingham. During his apprenticeship he acted as dresser to Joseph Hodgson (q.v.) at the Birmingham General Hospital. He entered St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, in 1827 and attended the lectures of John Abernethy, acting afterwards as Demonstrator of Anatomy at the Windmill Street School of Medicine. He was appointed the first Demonstrator of Anatomy at King's College, London, when the medical faculty was instituted in 1831, and held the post until 1836, when he was promoted Professor of Descriptive and Surgical Anatomy in succession to Herbert Mayo (q.v.). John Simon (q.v.) became Demonstrator in his place two years later, in 1838.

On Nov. 5th, 1831, occurred the 'resurrectionist' case in London which was instrumental in causing the passing of the Anatomy Act in 1832. Bishop, Williams, and May brought the body of Carlo Ferrari, an Italian boy, to King's College asking nine guineas for it. Partridge, being on the alert owing to the Burke and Hare case in Edinburgh in 1830, suspected foul play and delayed payment until the police were informed, saying that he only had a £50 note for which he must get change. Bishop and Williams were hanged, May was respited and sentenced to transportation for life.

On Dec. 23rd, 1836, Partridge was elected Visiting or Assistant Surgeon at Charing Cross Hospital; he was promoted to full Surgeon on Jan. 8th, 1838, and resigned the office on April 13th, 1840, when he was appointed Surgeon to the newly established King's College Hospital in Clare Market. He remained Surgeon to King's College Hospital until 1870. In 1837 he was elected F.R.S.

He held all the chief positions at the Royal College of Surgeons, serving as a Member of Council from 1852-1868; he was a Member of the Court of Examiners from 1864-1873; Chairman of the Midwifery Board in 1865; Hunterian Orator and Vice-President in the same year; and President in 1866. He filled many offices at the Royal Medico-Chirurgical Society, where he was elected a Fellow in 1828; he was Secretary from 1832-1836; a Member of Council 1837-1838, and again in 1861-1862; Vice-President, 1847-1848, President, 1863-1864.

Partridge succeeded Joseph Henry Green (q.v.) as Professor of Anatomy at the Royal Academy in 1853. He had himself some skill in drawing, having taken lessons from his brother John, the portrait painter. In the autumn of 1862 he went to Spezzia, at the request of Garibaldi's English friends, in order to attend the general, who had been severely wounded in the right ankle-joint at the Battle of Aspromonte. Having no previous experience of gunshot wounds, he unfortunately "overlooked the presence of the bullet", which Nélaton afterwards localized by his porcelain-tipped probe, and it was subsequently extracted by Professor Zanetti. This failure did him much harm professionally, though Garibaldi himself always wrote to him in the kindest terms, and he died a poor man on March 25th, 1873.

Partridge has been described as a fluent lecturer, an admirable blackboard draughtsman, an excellent clinical teacher, and one who, though he operated nervously, paid close attention to the after-treatment of his patients. He was a painstaking but not a brilliant surgeon; minute in detail and hesitating in execution - a striking contrast to the brilliant performances of his colleague, Sir William Fergusson.

He was somewhat of a wit, and it is recorded of him that, being asked the names of his very sorry-looking carriage-horses, he replied that the name of one was 'Longissimus Dorsi', but that the other was the 'Os Innominatum'. This was to a student.

He wrote very little, and his copiously illustrated work on descriptive anatomy was never printed. There is a portrait of him by George Richmond, R.A., which was engraved by Francis Holl. There are in addition a lithograph by Maguire, dated 1845, and a photograph of a picture by an unknown artist representing Partridge attending the wounded Garibaldi; it is reproduced in the centenary number of the Lancet (1923, ii, 700, fig. 10).

Sources used to compile this entry: [Dict. Nat. Biog., sub nomine et auct. ibi cit. MacCormac's Address of Welcome, 1900, 138. The Story of Bishop, Williams, and May can be read in J. F. Clarke's Autobiographical Recollections of the Medical Profession, London, 1874, 101; Blake Bailey's Diary of a Resurrectionist, London, 1876, 107; and J. Moores Ball's The Sack-'em-up-Men, Edinburgh and London, 1928, 116.].

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