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Biographical entry France, John Frederick (1818 - 1900)

MRCS Jan 31st 1840; FRCS Feb 8th 1855; FSA; JP for Middlesex and London.

6 October 1900
St Leonard's-on-Sea, UK
Ophthalmic surgeon


The son of W B France, DL, of Cadogan Place. He entered Guy's Hospital as a medical student in 1835, and at once distinguished himself. In 1838 he received the Prize in Surgery of the Physical Society, and in 1839 the Silver Medal for Ophthalmic Surgery. After taking the membership he was appointed Assistant Ophthalmic Surgeon to Guy's Hospital Medical School, and in 1847 succeeded John Morgan (qv) as Lecturer on Ophthalmic Surgery and as Ophthalmic Surgeon to the Hospital. In 1861 he retired and was appointed Consulting Ophthalmic Surgeon.

He was one of the earliest supporters of Epsom College. He was an active member of its Council until ill health prevented his attendance, and was a Vice-President of the school. He was also warmly interested in the Royal Asylum of St Anne's Schools, and was constant in his attendance at the Council Meetings. Within four years (1897-1900) he had purchased ten life presentations for girls to St Anne's, and had presented them to the governing body of Epsom College for the female orphans of medical men. The cost of these amounted to the large sum of £2,000. He was also a Vice-President of the British Medical Benevolent Fund, and a generous donor to it.

After his retirement France lived for many years at 2 Norfolk Terrace, Westbourne Grove, and died at St Leonards-on-Sea on Oct 6th, 1900. His funeral took place in Chichester Cathedral. By his will this much-respected philanthropist, whose fine motto had been 'May God me guide', left some £25,000 for the public use, and instructed his executors to spend £2000 in purchasing from the Royal Asylum of St Anne's Society ten rights of presentation for necessitous orphan daughters of medical men of not less than five years' practice. Subject to this and some smaller legacies the residuary estate was left in trust for the Royal Medical Benevolent College at Epsom.

Mr Henry Veasey, FRCS, wrote of France that, having been senior pupil dresser to Morgan, ophthalmic surgery became an absorbing pursuit with him, and after he succeeded his honoured master as Ophthalmic Surgeon to Guy's, divers articles in the Guy's Hospital Reports attested both his skill and his diligence; the frequent association of diabetes with cataract, the use of forceps to steady the eye in extraction, besides various pathological contributions, engaged his pen. A neat and successful operator, eminence was less sought than service. Easy circumstances combining with domestic trials, induced an early exchange of professional claims for comparative retirement in discharge of magisterial duty, together with valuable service rendered on committees. The close of a bright career, remarkable for beneficent philanthropy but partially known here, was tranquil.

France wrote voluminously on ophthalmological subjects. He published some 17 papers in the Guy's Hosp Rep and a number of other papers, lectures, and translations in the Lancet, Ophthalmol Hos. Rep, Med Gaz, Med Times and Gaz., Brit and For Med-Chir Rev, and Ecclesiologist (1842-68).
He edited John Morgan's Diseases of the Eye, 2nd ed, 1848, and prefixed to it a Life of Morgan.
He translated from the Latin G G Valentin's On the Functions of the Nerves of the Orbit, 8vo, London, 1846; reprinted from the London Med Gaz, 1846.
"Ophthalmic Cases," 8vo, London, 1847; reprinted from Guy's Hosp Rep, 1847, 26.
"On Ophthalmostasis; with an Account of an Improved Method in Extraction of the Cataract," 8vo, 2 plates, London, 1858; reprinted from Guy's Hosp Rep, 1858, 81.
Additional Notes on Diabetic Cataract, 8vo, nd.
Catena of Cases illustrating the use of Forceps in Extraction of Cataract, 8vo, plate, nd.
He also compiled and edited in his retirement Preces Veterum, cum Hymnis Cooevis, 2nd ed, 1887.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit. Med. Jour., 1900, ii, 1222].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England