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Biographical entry Crowfoot, William Henchman (1780 - 1848)

MRCS, March 19th, 1801; FRCS, Dec 11th, 1843, one of the original 300 Fellows.

9 September 1780
Kessingland, Suffolk, UK
13 November 1848
General surgeon


Born on Sept 9th, 1780, at Kessingland, a village on the Suffolk coast, where his father occupied a large farm. His mother, who was a daughter of the Rev J Henchman, died while he was an infant, and he was placed in charge of his uncle by marriage, the Rev W Clubbe, Vicar of Brandeston. Mr Clubbe, an elegant Latin scholar, taught him to love classical studies. In 1794 he was apprenticed to his uncle, Mr Crowfoot, of Beccles, who was a second father to him, and in 1799 he came to London and entered as a pupil at the Borough hospitals under Cline and Astley Cooper, the latter of whom became his friend in after-life. Sir Astley Cooper in his work on Dislocations (1842) refers to Crowfoot as one who, "to high professional skill, adds all the amiable qualities which can become a man."

Crowfoot hoped to obtain through his patron's influence a medical appointment in India, but he failed in this and settled at Framlington. In 1803, his practice being limited there, he removed at his uncle's suggestion to Beccles, and in 1805 became his partner, thenceforward obtaining high professional credit and success. It was in the December of 1805 that he accidentally met a party bearing the body of a soldier who had been thrown on the beach at Kessingland and lain for several hours apparently dead. Finding that the precordia still retained some warmth, he caused the body to be carried to a house, and persevering in the means of restoration which his professional skill suggested, he at length revived the sufferer. For this action the Royal Humane Society awarded him a silver medal.

He died, after an illness of only four days, on Nov 13th, 1848, of typhus fever, contracting the disease from a post-mortem on a typhus patient. At the time of his death he was Consulting Surgeon to the Beccles Dispensary.

Crowfoot's publications record the remarkable results of his own experience and are characterized by strong good sense. They include:-
"On Carditis." - Edin Med and Surg Jour, 1809, v, 298. He stressed the connection between rheumatism and carditis before that connection was so much insisted upon as at present.
"Surgical Cases." - Ibid, 1825, xxiv, 260.
"On the Use of Extension in Fractures of the Spine." - Jour Prov Med and Surg Assoc, 1843, xi, 337. In this paper he showed the value and success of the treatment in cases too often regarded as hopeless.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England