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Biographical entry Jones, Sydney (1831 - 1913)

MRCS April 4th 1853; FRCS Dec 11th 1856; LSA 1853; MB Lond 1856.

7 December 1913
General surgeon


The eighth son of Robert Jones, of Walworth. He was educated at Stanmore and at King's College, from which places he matriculated at the University of London. He was then apprenticed, according to the custom of the time, to Mr Bristowe, of Camberwell, whose son, Dr John Syer Bristowe, was at one time Physician to St Thomas's Hospital and the author of the well-known text-book on medicine. Dr Syer Bristowe and Sydney Jones were lifelong friends, and were always closely associated in hospital work. Sydney Jones entered as a student at St Thomas's Hospital in 1851, whilst it was still situated in the Borough. Here he gained many prizes and certificates of honour, chiefly in anatomy. He served the office of House Surgeon from February, 1854, and spent some time in Paris studying surgery at the Hertel-Dieu and in the Lariboisiere Hospital. He was appointed Curator of the Museum at St Thomas's Hospital and was elected the first regularly appointed Assistant Surgeon in June, 1860. Five years later he was placed in charge of the Ophthalmic Department, where he continued the tradition of Frederick Tyrrell (1797-1843). He was made Lecturer on Descriptive and Surgical Anatomy in 1860, and Lecturer on Ophthalmic Surgery in 1866. In January, 1871, he succeeded to the full Surgeoncy in the place of Samuel Solly (qv) and was Joint Lecturer of Systematic Surgery, having Le Gros Clarke (qv) as senior colleague and when he resigned, Sir William MacCormac.

At the Royal College of Surgeons he was Member of Council from 1883-1891. He acted as an Examiner in Surgery to the Royal College of Physicians of London, but had not sufficient leisure to undertake another examinership till his retirement from hospital duties, when he became Examiner in Surgery to the University of Glasgow. He retired early in 1891 with the rank of Consulting Surgeon, after twenty years' service on the staff of St Thomas's Hospital.

Sydney Jones was essentially a man of practice as opposed to theory; he was not an original investigator, but readily adopted any method of wound treatment that appeared to possess advantages over previous procedures. In addition he accepted and practised any new manner of operative interference which offered a prospect of improved result, and published cases which showed that he was well in the forefront of all changes which were taking place in the general advance of the active surgical period of the nineteenth century. He learned to operate at a time when rapidity was a necessity for success, and he was quick and brilliant as well as sound in such a happy combination that many accounted him the best operator of his day in London. There were several operations which were considered in the seventies and eighties of the last century as the highest tests of skill, and to see Sydney Jones perform a lateral lithotomy, remove a diseased foot by Syme's method, or excise the upper jaw, surgeons would travel for long distances, and the auditorium of the operation theatre was sure to be crowded. His extensive knowledge of anatomy stood him in good stead through life, and when talking over the prospects of a new operation, or the advantage and disadvantage of an old one, his criticism was very sound ; moreover, he not infrequently practised the operation on the dead subject before undertaking it in the theatre.

The case of Alexis St Martin, and Bassow and Blondlot's experiments in setting up a gastric fistula in dogs, led S├ędillot in 1849 to attempt to relieve an emaciated patient who was half dead. He inserted a cannula without fixing the stomach; the cannula slipped out and the patient died. He repeated the operation in 1853, fixing the stomach, but the patient died on the tenth day. Following this gastrostomy was attempted by various surgeons, twenty-six operations at least being undertaken without a single success, until Sydney Jones in 1875 had the first recovery; he had failed twice before. The patient was aged 67; feeding was begun on the sixth day; the man died of bronchitis and haemorrhage from extension of the oesophageal cancer forty days after the gastrostomy.

He was always punctual in his rounds at the hospital in the days when the visiting staff paid their visits at 8 o'clock in the morning. House surgeons arriving a few minutes late would find him in his ward already well started with the examination of his patients - an examination which was always most thorough. There could be little doubt of the excellent impression which his careful methods of investigation made upon the students, while his impressive delivery and methodical arrangement of lectures, both systematic and clinical, rendered them popular both in school and hospital.

For many years he was the most prominent figure in the surgical work of St Thomas's Hospital, to which his reputation brought many visitors, both from home and abroad. He was the last St Thomas's Surgeon to take a 'cub', as the apprentices were picturesquely termed. In addition to his appointments at this institution, Sydney Jones was Consulting Surgeon to the London Throat Hospital, the Surrey and Royal South London Dispensaries, and the Cottage Hospitals at Luton, Beckenham, and Hatfield Broad Oak. He had also at one time been Surgeon to the Islington and Surrey Dispensaries, and Clinical Assistant to the Brompton Hospital for Consumption. He carried on his practice at 16 George Street, Hanover Square, where St Thomas's men enjoyed his hospitality. For some years before his death he lived in retirement at the house of his younger son, Bevington Sydney Jones, MRCS, at 97 Louisville Road, Upper Tooting, SW.

He died on Dec 7th, 1913. By his marriage with Mary Morris he had five children - two sons, both in the medical profession and former students of St Thomas's Hospital (Sydney Harold Jones, FRCS, and Bevington Sydney Jones), and three daughters, who married medical men. Portraits of him accompany his biographies in the Lancet (1913, ii, 1801), the British Medical Journal (1913, ii, 1613), and the St Thomas's Hospital Gazette (1914, xxiv, 6). He also figures in the portrait group of the Council (1884) by Henry Jamyn Brookes, his likeness there being approved at his hospital.

Jones edited the St Thomas's Hospital Museum Pathological Catalogue ("Pathological Anatomy"), ii and iii 8vo, London, 1859, of which the second edition was by SAMUEL G SHATTOCK, FRS (qv). "This task occupied a period of three years, and in the preface to the catalogue it was stated that the entire collection required revision, that one-third of the specimens had to be described, and that many of the descriptions in the original manuscript required alteration or correction. Probably the contributions which attracted most attention at the time they were published were those dealing with the treatment of diseased joints by excision."
He contributed many other papers to St Thomas's Hosp Rep and other medical periodicals.
"Contribution towards the Surgical Treatment of Diseases of the Joints." - St Thomas's Hosp Rep, 1870, NS i, 435; 1871, NS ii, 283; 1873, NS iii, 255.
"Three Rare Surgical Cases." - Ibid, 1874, NS v, 295.
"Sarcoma of the Thyroid Gland; Removal; Recurrences; Death." - Ibid, 1888, NS xviii, 233.

Sources used to compile this entry: [St Thomas's Hosp Gaz, 1914, xxiv, 6, 8, with portrait. Betham Robinson's "St Thomas's Hospital Surgeons" in St Thomas's Hosp Rep, 1899, NS xxviii, 415. The details of the first successful gastrostomy may be read in the Lancet, 1876, ii, 665].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England