Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Coleman, Alfred (1828 - 1902)

MRCS April 21st 1860; FRCS Dec 10th 1868; LDS and LM 1860; LRCP Lond 1866.

30 December 1828
Wandsworth, London, UK
26 August 1902
Ealing, London, UK
Dental surgeon


Born at Wandsworth on Dec 30th, 1828, the son of Robert Coleman and Anna Were his wife. His father came of a Quaker family and was an Underwriter at Lloyd's, being one of the first members of the Corporation of Lloyd's at the Royal Exchange. Alfred Coleman was for a time associated with his father at Lloyd's, but at the age of 29 bound himself apprentice to a surgeon and in due course received his medical education at St Bartholomew's Hospital, where he was elected President of the Abernethian Society. He then determined to practise dentistry, and was one of the first dental surgeons to be admitted a Licentiate in Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and the first to pass the FRCS examination.

From 1867-1884 he was Dental Surgeon to St Bartholomew's Hospital and Lecturer on Dental Surgery in the Medical School. He was also Dental Surgeon and Lecturer on Dental Surgery to the Dental Hospital, London, and he acted as an Examiner in Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons. Failing health caused him to retire to Streatham, and in 1884 he emigrated with his family to New Zealand, where he was appointed Surgeon to the New Zealand Defence Forces and had opportunities of engaging in municipal affairs and the development of the colony. Returning to England in 1890, he renewed his interest in St Bartholomew's Hospital, of which he was elected a Governor, and served from 1894 as an almoner. He was an original member of the Odontological Society, and after serving in all the minor offices was chosen President in 1878; with Dr. Joseph Walker he was the first Editor of the British Dental Journal.

He married Fanny Butler in April, 1863, and had a family of two sons and eight daughters. He died at Ealing on Aug 26th, 1902, and his remains were cremated at Woking.

Coleman took a keen interest in anaesthesia. In 1868 he was a member of the committee appointed to inquire into "The Value and Advantages of the Protoxide of Nitrogen as an Anaesthetic in Surgical Operations", and he acted prominently in introducing nitrous oxide into this country. The method of administering this gas through the nose was introduced in 1898, and his apparatus for administering it in this way is preserved in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. He also introduced, as early as 1861, the mouth-opening gag which was re-invented, with very slight acknowledgement, in 1870 by Francis Mason (q.v.) and is commonly called by that name -'Mason's gag'.

Coleman practised at first in Finsbury Square, EC; next, and in partnership with Samuel Cartwright, in Old Burlington Street, W, and afterwards in Savile Row, where he was joined by F Ewbank and J Ackery.

Anaesthesia: considered especially in relation to Operations in Dental Surgery, 8vo, London, 1862.
Manual of Dental Surgery and Pathology, 8vo, illustrated, London, 1881; American ed., 8vo, Philadelphia, 1882; translated into French by Dr. Darin, Paris, 1885.
Various contributions to the Odontological Society, the Lancet, the Brit. Med. Jour., and the Med. Times and Gaz.
The protoxide of nitrogen papers appear in the Trans. Odontol. Soc., N.S. 31, and v, 11.
"On a Method of Administering Anaesthetics through the Nose." - Trans. Soc. of Anaesthetists, 1898, i, 117.
The account of the mouth-opening gag is in the Med. Times and Gaz., 1861, i, 105, and of Mason's gag in the Monthly Rev. of Dental Surg., 1876, August, 144. The original is preserved in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Sources used to compile this entry: [St. Bart.'s Hosp. Rep., 1902, xxxviii, p. xxxiii. Additional information given by his son, Major Frank Coleman, M.C., F.R.C.S., Dental Surgeon to St. Bartholomew's Hospital.].

The Royal College of Surgeons