Biographical entry Quain, Richard (1800 - 1887)
M.R.C.S., Jan. 18th, 1828; F.R.C.S., Dec. 11th, 1843, one of the original 300 Fellows; F.R.S., 1844.
- July 1800
Fermoy, County Cork, Ireland
- 15 September 1887
- General surgeon
Born in Fermoy, Co. Cork, in July, 1800, the third son of Richard Quain, of Ratheahy, Co. Cork, by his first wife - a Miss Jones. Jones Quain (1796-1865), the anatomist, was his full brother, and Sir John Richard Quain (1816-1876), Judge of the Queen's Bench, was his half-brother. Sir Richard Quain, Bart. (1816-1898) was his cousin.
Richard Quain was educated at Adair's School in Fermoy, and after apprenticeship to an Irish surgeon came to London and entered the Aldersgate School of Medicine under the supervision of Jones Quain, his brother, for whom he acted as prosector. He afterwards went to Paris and attended the lectures of Richard Bennett, who lectured privately on anatomy and was an Irish friend of his father. Bennett was appointed in 1828 a Demonstrator of Anatomy in the newly constituted School of the University of London - now University College - and Quain acted as his assistant. Bennett died in 1830 and Quain became Senior Demonstrator of Anatomy, Sir Charles Bell being Professor of General Anatomy and Physiology. When Bell resigned the Chair Richard Quain was appointed Professor of Descriptive Anatomy in 1832, Erasmus Wilson (q.v.), Thomas Morton (q.v.), John Marshall (q.v.), and Victor Ellis (q.v.) acting successively as his demonstrators. He held office until 1850.
Quain was elected the first Assistant Surgeon to University College - then called the North London - Hospital in 1834. He succeeded, after a stormy progress, to the office of full Surgeon and Special Professor of Clinical Surgery in 1848, resigning in 1866, when he was appointed Consulting Surgeon and Emeritus Professor of Clinical Surgery.
At the Royal College of Surgeons he was a Member of the Council from 1854-1873; a Member of the Court of Examiners, 1865-1870; Chairman of the Midwifery Board, 1867; Vice-President, 1866 and 1867; President, 1868; Hunterian Orator, 1869; and Representative of the College at the General Medical Council, 1870-1876. He was elected F.R.S. on Feb. 29th, 1844, and was Surgeon Extraordinary to Queen Victoria.
He married in 1859 Ellen, Viscountess Midleton, widow of the fifth Viscount, but had no children. She died before him. He died on Sept. 15th, 1887, and was buried at Finchley. The bulk of his fortune of £75,000 was left to University College to encourage and promote general education in modern languages (especially the English language and the composition of that language) and in natural science. The Quain Professorship of English Language and Literature and the Quain Studentship and Prizes were endowed from this bequest. Quain himself had received a liberal education, and one of his hobbies was to write and speak English correctly.
Quain was a short and extremely pompous little man. He went round his wards with a slow and deliberate step, his hands deep in his pockets and his hat on his head. As a surgeon he was cautious rather than demonstrative, painstaking rather than brilliant, but in some measure he made up for his lack of enterprise with the knife by his insistence on an excellent clinical routine, and he was a careful teacher. He had a peculiar but intense dread of the occurrence of haemorrhage. He devoted especial attention to diseases of the rectum. "Even such a matter as clearing out the scybala had to be performed in his wards in a deliberate manner, under his own superintendence." He had certain stock clinical lectures which he delivered each year, and one of these was on the ill consequences attending badly fitting boots, which he illustrated profusely by the instruments of torture called boots devised by some shoemakers.
He edited his brother's Elements of Anatomy (5th ed., 1843-8), and was author of a superbly illustrated work, The Anatomy of the Arteries of the Human Body (8vo, with folding atlas of plates, London, 1844), deduced from observations upon 1040 subjects. The splendid plates illustrating this were drawn by Joseph Maclise (q.v.), brother of the great artist, and the explanation of the plates is by his cousin Richard Quain, M.D. (afterwards Sir Richard). He also published Diseases of the Rectum (8vo, London, 1854; 2nd ed., 1855), and Clinical Lectures (8vo, London, 1884).
He was an unamiable colleague, for he was of a jealous nature and prone to impute improper motives to all who differed from him. He quarrelled at one time or another with most of the staff of University College Hospital. In these quarrels he sided with Elliotson and Samuel Cooper against Liston and Anthony Todd Thomson. At the College of Surgeons he was strictly conservative, and apt to urge views on educational subjects which did not commend themselves to the majority of his colleagues. A life-size half-length portrait in oils painted by George Richmond, R.A., hangs in the Secretary's office at the Royal College of Surgeons, and in the Council Room is a bust by Thomas Woolner, R.A.; it was presented by Miss Dickinson in December, 1887.
Sources used to compile this entry: [Dict. Nat. Biog., sub nomine et auct. ibi cit. MacCormac's Address of Welcome, 1900, 150. J. F. Clarke's Autobiographical Recollections of the Medical Profession, London, 1874, 295, gives an account of the quarrels at University College.].
The Royal College of Surgeons of England
Created: 1 February 2006, Last modified: 9 March 2012