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Biographical entry Ransome, John Atkinson (1779 - 1837)

MRCS, Feb 7th, 1806; FRCS, Dec 11th, 1843. His name appears in the list of the first 300 Fellows in ignorance of the fact that he was dead.

4 March 1779
Norwich, UK
10 February 1837
Manchester, UK
General surgeon


Son of Thomas Ransome, manager of Messrs Gurney’s Bank at Norwich. He was born at Norwich on March 4th, 1779, was apprenticed to a surgeon at Lynn, and entering Guy's Hospital became a pupil of Sir Astley Cooper, with whom he was ever afterwards in friendly correspondence. He endeavoured, but unsuccessfully, to establish himself first in Ipswich and afterwards at Bury St Edmunds, but moving to Manchester he was elected Surgeon to the Infirmary on March 20th, 1806. In conjunction with James Ainsworth he lectured on anatomy and physiology at the Literary and Philosophical Institute, the earliest syllabus being published in 1812. The course, perhaps, was a continuation of that given by Peter Mark Roget and Benjamin Gibson in 1806-1807.

Thomas Turner founded the Pine Street School of Medicine at Manchester in 1824 and enlisted the willing services of Ransome, who began to lecture on the principles and practice of surgery in 1825. His lectures fulfilled the requirements of the Royal College of Surgeons in London, and the Pine Street School thus became the first provincial medical school whose teaching was formally recognized. Ransome’s lectures dealt chiefly with his own experience gained in a large surgical practice and were greatly appreciated by the students, as he rarely entered upon matters of hypothesis or controversy. The notes were written in his carriage whilst he went from patient to patient. Amongst his patients was William Huskisson, the statesman, who was accidentally killed at the opening of the Manchester and Liverpool Railway on Sept 15th, 1830, and Ransome’s only contribution to surgical literature is the account of the accident, which he published in the North of England Medical and Surgical Journal for 1830 (p. 268).

He was appointed Librarian of the Literary and Philosophical Society in 1809 and acted as one of the Secretaries from 1810-1820. He lived in Princess Street, at No 1 St Peter’s Square, and finally at Old Trafford, where he died on Feb 10th, 1837, and was buried behind the meeting-house of the Society of Friends in Mount Street. His son was Joseph Atkinson Ransome (q.v.), and it was perhaps the similarity of name that led to the error of including his distinguished father in the first list of 'Fellows when it was intended to honour the son.

Ransome had a high and well-deserved reputation as a surgeon; he was a skilled operator, and was the first in Manchester to suggest catgut or silk ligatures for tying arteries on the ground that, being of animal origin, they would the more readily be absorbed. He was a skilled draughtsman and drew the illustrations for Benjamin Gibson’s Practical Observations on the Formation of an Artificial Pupil, etc. (London, 1811), a subject to which Ransome himself paid special attention. His strict integrity, spotless moral character, and honourable bearing gained him the respect and goodwill of all those with whom he was brought in contact. There is a fine portrait, a chalk drawing by Bedford, in the possession of the family. It is reproduced in Dr. Brockbank’s Sketches of the Lives and Work of the Honorary Medical Staff of the Manchester Infirmary.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Dr. Brockbank’s Sketches of the Lives and Work of the Honorary Medical Staff of the Manchester Infirmary, 4to, Manchester, 1904, 226 et auct. ibi cit. The Book of Manchester and Salford, 8vo, Manchester, 1929, 41, with portrait. Additional information kindly given by Dr E M Brockbank, G Wilson, Esq, and Frank G Hazell].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England