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Biographical entry Higginbottom, John (1788 - 1876)

MRCS July 3rd 1818; FRCS (by election) Aug 26th 1844; FRS June 3rd 1852.

14 June 1788
7 April 1876
General surgeon


Born on June 14th, 1788, at Ashton-under-Lyne, the son of a highly respected solicitor. He was sent to several small private schools unsuited to a delicate young boy. His father intended him for a solicitor, but the boy hated desk work, had a taste for drawing, and a love of angling and books about fishing. He was, however, apprenticed to an uncle, a surgeon at Stockport, where his duties included the grooming of the horse, taking it to water night and morning, sweeping out the surgery, cleaning all the bottles and shelves in the shop every third morning, preparing powders, mixtures, and blisters, ointments, plasters, and a large stock of pills, without a fire in the surgery, hence much chapping of hands.

He went to Edinburgh in October, 1809, and his course there completed, he became assistant to Mr Attenburrow, who had a large practice in Nottingham. The country round involved journeys of twenty miles on horseback, often starting before breakfast, the rest of the day on foot. He also acted as Dresser at the General Hospital, to which Attenburrow was Surgeon. Among his friends were the family of Corrie, one of whom became Bishop of Madras and another Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. After two years at Nottingham, Higginbottom attended lectures by Astley Cooper and others in London, and qualified in 1818. He then returned to Nottingham and rapidly acquired a large practice. In this he was favoured by his marriage with Ann, daughter of Robert Hall (1755-1827), of New Basford, who developed the bleaching of linen by chlorine, replacing the slow process in the open air. She was the sister of Marshall Hall, who practised in Nottingham between 1817 and 1826.

Higginbottom, from the days of his apprenticeship onwards, was a convinced advocate of teetotalism, and, at a time when alcohol was prescribed as a stimulant to excess, was an avowed abstainer who did not prescribe alcohol as a tonic. He long retained a large practice, and his tall figure and handsome and benevolent face were well known in Nottingham to two generations. He died of old age at St Alban's Villas, Gill Street, Nottingham, on April 7th, 1876.

Among Higginbottom's writings was his advocacy of the application of nitrate of silver to wounds and ulcers, which he claimed as having a curative influence on inflammation, a claim time has not confirmed.
An Essay on the Application of the Lunar Caustic to the Cure of Certain Wounds and Ulcers, 1826; reprinted with slight alterations in 1829, 1850, and 1865.
"Observations on the Development of the Triton and Frog." - Philosophical Trans, 1850, cxl, 431; Proc. Roy. Soc., 1843-50, v, 669, 949; 1860-2, xi, 532. Observations undertaken at the suggestion of Marshall Hall.
Articles against alcohol in the Lancet, 1857, ii, 166, etc., and Brit. Med. Jour., 1861, ii, 425, etc; 1868, i, 26.
"Advocacy of Ipecacuanha as an Emetic." - Brit. Med. Jour., 1869, i, 143.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Bishop Daniel Corrie (1777-1837) and George Elwes Corrie (1793-1885), Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, both find a place in the Dict. Nat. Biog., as do Robert Hall and Marshall Hall].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England