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Biographical entry Griffith, John (1866 - 1901)

MRCS Aug 1st 1889; FRCS June 14th 1894; LRCP Lond 1889.

May 1866
Aston, Oxfordshire, UK
25 August 1901
Ophthalmic surgeon


Born at Aston, Oxfordshire, in May, 1866, the son of the Rev George Sandham Griffith, who at a later date became Rector of Ardley, Bicester. John Griffith was educated at Royse's School, Abingdon, and under Dr Grove at St Ives, Huntingdonshire. In 1884 he began his medical training at St Mary's Hospital, where he was Scholar in Pathology in 1888 and won the Prize in Ophthalmology in 1889. His career had been determined as it were by accident. An intimate friend at St Mary's was working for the Clinical Ophthalmic Assistantship, and suggested to Griffith that he too should compete. Griffith did so accordingly, beat his friend at the examination, and obtained the post, which he held at the time of his death, when he was Senior Clinical Ophthalmic Assistant. He was also appointed Clinical Assistant and Pathologist at the Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital, and later was elected Assistant Surgeon, and then full Surgeon as well as Lecturer. Here his clinic was largely attended by enthusiastic students and practitioners. Shortly before his final breakdown in health he was appointed Lecturer at Jonathan Hutchinson's Policlinic.

For the last ten years of his life he had worked regularly at the histology of the eye, and had made a large collection of microscopic slides. One process of great value which he introduced about the year 1893 was the use of euchlorine as a bleaching agent for the removal of pigment from the uveal tract. His efficiency in minute anatomy and pathology gave him a good position in the Ophthalmological Society, where he was often elected to serve on pathological sub-committees of reference.

At St Mary's he proved an excellent, kindly, and inspiring teacher, to whose enthusiasm many students owed their early interest in ophthalmology.

For the last five years of his life he assisted Anderson Critchett and Henry Edward Juler (qv) in their private practices, had made his mark and obtained a large private connection. He died of phthisis on Aug 25th, 1901, having practised latterly at 16 Harley Street. He was a keen pathologist and brilliant ophthalmologist, and at the time of his death, in addition to the posts above mentioned, he was Curator as well as Surgeon at the Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital, and Ophthalmic Surgeon at the Kensington Institute for the Blind; he had also been Assistant Demonstrator of Anatomy and Assistant Pathologist and Curator at St Mary's Hospital.

Anderson Critchett wrote of him:-
"My dear friend and colleague, John Griffith, had such an interesting and attractive personality, and during his too short life had achieved so much work of sterling merit, that his memory must long survive with all who knew him. Before he had finished his student's career he was attracted to the study of ophthalmology, and devoted himself to it with that keen and indomitable energy which was one of his chief characteristics. He was an excellent pathologist, and enriched the museum at St Mary's Hospital with many valuable specimens. His special knowledge in this direction met with early recognition at the Ophthalmological Society. He did not, however, pursue this particular branch of study as an abstract science, but chiefly as a means to acquire knowledge which he could turn to practical advantage in the relief of human suffering.

"For the last five years he assisted me in my private practice, where I had the happy experience of his exceptional ability, and it is with deep regret that I now pay this final tribute to a gifted colleague and a loyal friend."

Griffith was joint-author of the chapter on "Refraction of the Eye" in Juler's Ophthalmic Science and Practice, 2nd ed, 8vo, illustrated, London, 1893.
"Rare Form of Intra-ocular Melanoma." - Ophthalmol Soc Trans, 1894, xiv, 160, "Case of Filamentary Keratitis" (with G COWELL). - Ibid, xiv, 76.
"Iritis a Sequel to Gonorrhoea." - Ibid, 1900, xx, 83. This was the latest subject of his study, wherein he maintained the frequency of the disease when compared with its syphilitic variety and laid stress on the length of its incubation period.
"Criticism on Recent Views as to the Secretory Function of the Ciliary Body."
Ophthalmic Rev, 1894, xiii, 247.
"Choroidal Sarcoma in Infancy." - Ibid, 1895, xiv, 286.
"Some Common Diseases of the Eyelids ; their Pathology and Treatment." - Med Times and Hosp Gaz, 1896, xxiv, 161, etc.
"The Treatment of Idiopathic Ulcers of the Cornea in Children." - Treatment, 1897-8, I, 437.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Griffiths in the Fellows' Register. St Mary's Hosp Gaz, 1901, vii, 128, with portrait. Lancet, 1901, ii, 765].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England