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Biographical entry Hancock, Henry (1809 - 1880)

M.R.C.S., June 16th, 1834; F.R.C.S., Dec, 11th, 1843, one of the original 300 Fellows.

6 August 1809
London, UK
1 January 1880
Chute, Wiltshire, UK
General surgeon and Ophthalmic surgeon


Born on Aug. 6th, 1809, at Bread Street Hill, the son of a City merchant, his mother being a daughter of Alderman Hamerton. He was educated at Mr Butter's school in Cheyne Walk and at Westminster Hospital, where his ability soon attracted the attention of G. J. Guthrie and Anthony White. He acted as House Surgeon and was appointed Demonstrator of Anatomy in 1835. In 1836 he was elected Lecturer on Anatomy and Physiology at the Charing Cross Medical School after a severe contest with James F. Palmer, the editor of the works of John Hunter. Palmer afterwards went to Australia and became Speaker of the House of Assembly at Melbourne.

Hancock was appointed Assistant Surgeon in 1839 to the recently established Charing Cross Hospital, becoming Surgeon in 1840, on the appointment of Richard Partridge as Surgeon to King's College Hospital. This post he retained until 1872, when he resigned and was appointed Consulting Surgeon. He acted as Ophthalmic Surgeon to the hospital during the year 1841. He was one of the founders and chief ornaments of the Medical School attached to the hospital, and made the tradition of a high standard of teaching for which the school became celebrated. He lectured on anatomy and physiology from 1836-1841, and on surgery from 1841-1867. He acted as Dean of the School from 1856-1867. He was also attached to the Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital, which was then next door to the Charing Cross Hospital in King William Street, but has recently been rebuilt in Broad Street, Bloomsbury. As early as 1832 he acted as House Surgeon; about 1840 he was appointed Assistant Surgeon, becoming full Surgeon in 1845, and Consulting Surgeon in 1870.

At the Royal College of Surgeons Hancock was a Member of the Council from 1863-1880 and of the Court of Examiners from 1870-1875. He was Chairman of the Midwifery Board in 1871, Vice-President in 1870 and 1871, President in 1872, and Hunterian Orator in 1873. As Arris and Gale Professor in 1866-1867 he lectured on the foot, his attention having been directed to the study of articular diseases by his old master, Anthony White. He was one of those who early took up the subject of conservative surgery and the excision of joints. He introduced into England, and improved, Moreau's method of excision of the ankle-joint, and devised an amputation which, while preserving the back part of the os calcis and upper part of the astragalus, gives, when these are juxtaposed, a mobile and exceedingly valuable stump. He also modified Syme's amputation of the foot by dissecting the heel flap from above downwards, instead of from below upwards. At the Medical Society of London he was Orator in 1842 and President in 1848. He was greatly interested in the welfare of the Epsom Benevolent College, of which he was first Hon. Secretary and afterwards Treasurer.

As an oculist he gained a large practice, and followed the tradition of Guthrie. A mode of dividing the ciliary muscle for glaucoma was introduced by him - an operation which has since given place to iridectomy. He was an excellent surgeon and clinical teacher. He was kindly and considerate, of a lovable character, earnest and enthusiastic about his work, and markedly straightforward and attached to duty. He retired into Wiltshire, and died on Jan. 1st, 1880, of cancer of the stomach, at Standen House, Chute, where he was buried, his father, at nearly the same age, having succumbed to that or a similar disease. He married and left a family. A portrait by George Richmond, R. A., is in the possession of the College, and there is a photograph in the Fellows' Album. The College Collection contains a lithograph by Hanhart after a sketch by Maguire made in the spring of 1849.

Translation of Velpeau's Regional Anatomy
Tracts on Operation for Disease of the Appendix Caeci (8vo, London, 1848), and on the Male Urethra and Stricture Lancet, 1852, i, 187.

Sources used to compile this entry: [MacCormac's Address of Welcome, London, 1900, 163. Hunter's Charing Cross Hospital and Medical School, London, 1914. Information kindly given by Capt. J. H. Johnson, Secretary of the Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital.].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England