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Biographical entry Jessop, Thomas Richard (1837 - 1903)

MRCS July 19th 1858; FRCS June 11th 1862; LSA 1860; JP.

11 November 1837
Brighouse, Yorkshire
General surgeon


Born on Nov 11th, 1837, at Brighouse, Yorkshire, the second surviving child of Thomas Jessop, a solicitor, by his wife, who was a Miss Haley. He was educated at the Giggleswick Grammar School under Dr Butterton and John Howson, father of John Saul Howson, Dean of Chester, and was apprenticed for the usual term of five years to William Farrar, a surgeon in practice at Bradford. He then became a pupil of Thomas Nunneley (qv) at the Leeds General Infirmary and studied at the Leeds School of Medicine in 1856. He was elected Resident Medical Officer to the Infirmary in 1860, having passed the final examination for the FRCS at the early age of 23, although he was not admitted a Fellow until 1862, when he had attained the legal age. He remained as Resident Medical Officer until 1865, undertaking many surgical operations and making numerous post mortem examinations. He settled in practice at Leeds in 1865 and was appointed Demonstrator of Anatomy in the Medical School, becoming Lecturer on Physiology and Surgeon to the Leeds Public Dispensary in 1866. He was elected Surgeon to the General Infirmary in 1870 on the death of his old master, Thomas Nunneley, becoming Senior Surgeon on the retirement of C G Wheelhouse (qv) and T P Teale (qv). He resigned his office of Surgeon to the Dispensary on his election at the infirmary.

Jessop was the first Professor of Surgery when the Leeds Medical School, where he had been Lecturer on Surgery, became an integral part of the Victoria University. He retired from the staff of the infirmary after twenty years' service and was immediately appointed Consulting Surgeon. During the whole of this time he had carried on a large general practice, and it was not until 1890, and then only with much misgiving, that he decided to devote himself wholly to surgery and consulting work. At the Royal College of Surgeons he was elected a Member of Council in 1892, was re-elected in 1900, was Vice-President in 1901, and in the same year delivered the Bradshaw Lecture, taking as his subject the operative treatment of stone in the bladder and in the kidney. For many years he was Surgeon to the Great Western Railway Company and was often a prominent witness in compensation cases. For a long time he represented the West Riding Branch of the British Medical Association at the Central Council, and was President of the Surgical Section in 1889, when he gave an address "On the Treatment of Cancer of the Rectum". He practised at 32 Park Square, Leeds, but lived latterly at Roundhay Mount, near Leeds. He was a Justice of the Peace for the West Riding of Yorkshire. He died after a cerebral haemorrhage on Sept 6th, 1903. He married (1) Isabel Blackburn on Nov 12th, 1868, and (2) Lena Cardwell on Aug 26th, 1898. By his first wife he had two sons and six daughters. One of these daughters, Agnes Wellesley, married Berkeley G Moynihan, who afterwards became Lord Moynihan, KCMG.

Jessop worthily carried on the great tradition of the Leeds School of Surgery. As an operator his chief distinguishing feature was caution, and he had the valuable faculty of knowing how much a patient would bear in any operative measure. His judgement was extraordinarily sound, and in the examination of a patient he was minute and exhaustive. There was never any hurry and all things were inquired into systematically and deliberately. However obvious a case might appear, he was never enticed into haste, and when he had made up his mind he had not only obtained a correct diagnosis, but had also excluded or negatived the incorrect. If, therefore, a discussion arose in subsequent consultation as to the presence or absence of any sign, it was never necessary to return for a further examination of the patient. The sign, whatever it might be, had been duly noted and its value weighed. Jessop was at his best in the operating theatre. He was skilful, scrupulously exact, and imperturbable. As a teacher he was precise and emphatic; as a colleague, tactful and friendly; to his patients he was a model of courtesy and kindliness. There is a good photograph in the College Collection.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Prov Med Jour, Leicester, 1889, viii, 449, with portrait. Lancet, 1903, ii, 856. Brit Med Jour, 1903, ii, 629. Additional information kindly given by Lord Moynihan, KCMG].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England