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Biographical entry Cousins, John Ward (1834 - 1921)

MRCS March 7th 1856; FRCS May 31st 1860; LSA 1856; MD Lond 1859; JP for the Borough of Portsmouth.

22 September 1921
General surgeon


The second son of the Rev Thomas Cousins, an Independent Minister at the King Street Church, Portsmouth. He was apprenticed to E J Scott (qv), Surgeon to the Royal Portsmouth Hospital, and received his professional training at St Thomas's Hospital, where he was Cheselden Medallist in 1856 and held resident appointments. He was for a time Resident Surgeon at the Victoria Park Hospital (City of London Hospital for Diseases of the Chest), and then returned to Portsmouth, where he soon devoted himself entirely to surgery. He was appointed Assistant Surgeon to the Royal Portsmouth Hospital in 1860, and remained on the active staff as Senior Surgeon till 1908, when he was elected Consulting Surgeon and a Vice-President. He was one of the founders of the Portsmouth and South Hants Eye and Ear Infirmary, making ophthalmic surgery his specialty whilst still practising as a general surgeon. He was also latterly Senior Surgeon of the Eye and Ear Infirmary and of the Medical and Surgical Home for Women. "If I were asked to state Dr Ward Cousins's outstanding characteristic as a surgeon," wrote his intimate friend and colleague, Charles P Childe (qv), "I should say it was his thoroughness - no time was too long, no trouble too great for him to spend over any case, no care too exacting in the performance of any operation. The number of hours he devoted to his hospital work was prodigious."

Ward Cousins was the outstanding figure at the Royal Portsmouth Hospital, which he served for nearly half a century. Popular and helpful among his colleagues, he has been described as the backbone of the institution, where his aim was to foster esprit de corps, broad-mindedness, and tolerance. He was fond of reading and study, and was the mainstay, as Hon Secretary, of a local literary and scientific institution. His labours on behalf of the British Medical Association were life-long. For a number of years he was Hon Secretary of the Portsmouth Division, and then President of the Division and of the Southern Branch. He was a member of the old Committee of Council of the Association in the early eighties, and was President of the Central Council from 1898-1895. At the Portsmouth Meeting in 1899 he was President of the Association, and his good qualities and generous hospitality were then greatly in evidence.

At the Royal College of Surgeons he was a well-known figure - a little, very baldheaded, genial gentleman. From 1895-1899 he was a Member of Council and represented the College on the Central Midwives Board.

Dr Ward Cousins, as he was always known locally, died at his house - Riverside, Kent Road, Southsea - on Sept 22nd, 1921, being survived by his widow and a daughter. He was twice married - the second time to Miss Waters, the head mistress of a school for girls in Southsea. He was a medical inventor of great originality and mechanical skill, the following being a list of the appliances devised or improved by him: Tapering metallic catheter with flexible beak; capillary catheter; gag with throat guard; Eustachian catheter; pelvic tourniquet for amputation at hip-joint; aural apparatus for alternate injection and evacuation of air; fixing forceps; ovariotomy trocar; convertible stethoscope; surgical pin with handle; aspirator; needle-holder with rotatory action; safety eye-irrigator; dilator after colotomy; empyema trocar and knife; antiseptic artificial drumhead, etc. For these inventions he was awarded a prize medal by the British Medical Association in 1884 and a gold medal at the International Inventions Exhibition. He was awarded a prize of £20 by the British Medical Association for one of his inventions; this money, however, he did not himself receive, but offered it as a prize for the best essay on abortion. The list of inventions made by Ward Cousins differs in the Provincial Medical Journal from that quoted above, the latter being from the Medical Directory and apparently that which he wished to place on record.

He was for many years engaged in the development of the Portsmouth and South Hants Eye and Ear Hospital and of the Surgical Home for Women, and in the reconstruction of the Royal Hospital, where in 1889 there were 130 patients.

Ward Cousins was distinguished for his singular calligraphy, and his prescriptions were a puzzle to many dispensers. Among the 'illegible prescriptions' represented in The Art of Dispensing and published at the offices of the Chemist and Druggist, a facsimile of his handwriting will be found. His portrait is in the Fellows' Album.

"Case of Soft and Foetid Calculus." - Clin. Soc. Trans.. 1888, xxi, 259.
New Antiseptic Artificial Membrana Tympani. With Remarks on the Treatment of Perforation and other Disorders of the Middle Ear, 12mo, London, 1889.
"Ectopic Gestation, and Conditions favourable for its Advance to Full Term" - Brit. Med. Jour., 1903, ii, 181.
"Tuberculous Diseases of Joints; Arthrectomy and Excision." - Ibid., 1896, ii, 1040.
"Excision of Knee-joint in Middle Life; Jamming the Bone." - Ibid., 1896, ii, 177.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Prov. Med. Jour., Leicester, 1889, viii, 385, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England