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Biographical entry Jeaffreson, William (1790 - 1865)

MRCS Dec 13th 1812; FRCS (by election) Aug 26th 1844.

8 November 1865
Framlingham, Suffolk
Gynaecologist and Obstetrician


Went to Bury St Edmunds Grammar School, then to Guy's and St Thomas's Hospitals, to which the fame of Sir Astley Cooper attracted him as it did others. He settled in practice at Framlingham, Suffolk, and there gained for himself the honour of being amongst the first in England to remove an ovarian cyst successfully. In the United States McDowell and Nathan Smith had succeeded in eleven cases. At the post-mortem on a woman who had died from another cause Jeaffreson had noted an ovarian cyst, without adhesions, which when collapsed could be drawn out through a one-inch incision.

Robert Houston (Phil Trans, 1724, xxxiii, 8) had reported that he had cut into an ovarian cyst, evacuated the contents, and the woman had recovered. William Hunter (Med Obs and Inquiries, 1762, ii, 26, 41, and 45: on the "Cellular Membrane and Some of its Diseases" and on "Encysted Dropsy of the Ovarium") had suggested, with reference to Houston's case, the removal of the cyst through a one-inch incision after emptying it by means of a trocar and cannula. Jeaffreson had also learnt of Nathan Smith's operation. He first examined the case of ovarian cyst in 1833, and watched the woman until 1836, when, assisted by King, of Saxmundham, he made a one-inch incision midway between the umbilicus and pubes through the linea alba, emptied the cyst through a cannula inserted by means of a trocar, removing 12 pints of fluid. As the sac emptied it was seized and drawn forwards; a second cyst containing 2 oz was similarly emptied. A ligature was then placed on the pedicle, the ends of the ligature were cut close to the knot, the sac was removed, and the wound sutured. The woman recovered and continued in good health.

The prevalence of bladder calculus in East Anglia gave Jeaffreson opportunities of becoming a successful lithotomist. He also tried lithotrity advocated by Civiale and Heurteloup in France, by Costello in England. He was the first provincial surgeon to try the procedure, and selected cases in which he obtained success except in one. The College recognized his surgical success by electing him an Hon Fellow and he attended the annual elections and dinners. He joined the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association, and was President at a meeting of the Eastern Branch at Framlingham in 1848. He retired later and died at Framlingham on Nov 8th, 1865.

The Surgeon General's Library Catalogue attributes to Jeaffreson A Practical Treatise on Diseases of the Eye, 1844, which in fact was written by a surgeon of the same name who spent many years in Bombay.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1865, ii, 609. The details of the ovariotomy may be read in Trans Prov Med Assoc, 1837, v, 239].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England