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Biographical entry Kingdon, John Abernethy (1828 - 1906)

MRCS Aug 17th 1849; FRCS Dec 19th 1861.

5 January 1906
General surgeon


Born at 2 New Bank Buildings, Lothbury, EC, where his father, William Kingdon (qv), a well-known surgeon, was in practice. Abernethy Kingdon was baptized at St Margaret's, Lothbury, and John Abernethy stood godfather. He was educated at St Paul's School, and received his professional training at St Bartholomew's Hospital. Soon after qualifying he was appointed House Surgeon to William Lawrence, who was his father's intimate friend. On leaving St Bartholomew's, Kingdon was appointed Surgeon to the City Dispensary, then located in Queen Street, Cheapside, and held this appointment for many years. He is best known, however, as Surgeon to the City of London Truss Society. He was elected in 1858 and served the Society with all his energy for thirty years. He was long connected with the Grocers' Company, was an influential member of its Court, and in 1883 was Master. He edited two volumes of the history of the guild, and the part it took in the work of the Reformation and in the question of "ancient weights and the custodianship of the standard weights and of the King's beam". So highly was his work regarded that the Court of the Company presented him with an address of appreciation enclosed in a silver casket. Partly at his instigation and with the assistance of Sir John Simon (qv) the Company founded scholarships in Sanitary Science.

About the year 1861 Kingdon took a large share at St Bartholomew's in resuscitating the dying Abernethian Society, which he practically nursed back to health. He was a Fellow of the Royal Medico-Chirurgical Society from 1861 onwards, was elected Member of Council in 1866-1867 and Vice-President in 1872-1873. Whilst a Member of the Council he served on the Science Committee that investigated the action of the subcutaneous injection of drugs, and pursued the inquiry with keen interest. He was also a member of the Pathological Society.

Kingdon cared little for private practice as a surgeon, but was well known as Medical Officer (Hon Consulting Surgeon) to the Bank of England and to a number of Insurance Societies. His reports were admirable. During the closing year of his life he never relaxed in the performance of his many duties though his health was failing. He died during sleep, at his chambers in Westminster, on Jan 5th, 1906. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery. He was unmarried, and was survived by only one brother, the Bishop of Fredericton, Canada. In addition to the offices above enumerated he had held that of Consulting Surgeon to the Merchant Taylors' Convalescent Home. Latterly he had practised at 6A Prince's Street, Lothbury.

The following interesting appreciation of John Abernethy Kingdon appeared in the Lancet, 1906, i, 129; it is from the pen of Jonathan Macready (qv): "John Abernethy Kingdon held the office of Surgeon to the City of London Truss Society for thirty years, and during the last ten years of that period I had the good fortune to be associated with him and to become acquainted with his delightful personality.... Mr Kingdon was not an operator but was a very ingenious mechanician, and all the best improvements in the trusses used by the society during the last fifty years came from him. He was very successful in reducing hernia. He knew at once what could and what could not be reduced, and his vast experience sometimes permitted him to use an amount of force which others would have hardly dared to apply. He used to say that Vincent, one of the old Surgeons of St Bartholomew's Hospital, had been an adept at reducing hernia, and I believe he founded his own method on what he had seen done by Vincent. With his very wide hand, in which the intrinsic muscles were strongly developed, he certainly effected extraordinary reductions. He had great influence upon those within his range, which he owed partly to the confidence that his high and noble character inspired and partly to the charm of his manner and to his deep knowledge of human nature. When attention was drawn to his powers of persuasion he would say sometimes, 'Yes, I understand men'. It was his custom to address the patients in a racy vernacular which was very attractive to them, and he soon won their confidence. He could do as he pleased with them, however painful his manipulations might be, and the interview generally ended by the patient saying, 'Oh, sir, you have such a nice way with you'. He had a great reverence for the 'Chosen People', and he was never so pleased as when an old Israelite lifted up his hands to heaven and blessed him. No man better deserved the blessings of his fellow-men. In all his dealings his own advantage was the last thing that he considered. He was most hospitable, generous and charitable, almost to a fault. He was a humorous, a charming, and most endearing colleague."

For forty years he acted as churchwarden of St Margaret's, Lothbury.

"On the Causes of Hernia." - Med-Chir Trans, 1864, xlvii. 295. "In this contribution", says the British Medical Journal, 1906, i, 179, "he proved that the occurrence of hernia was due primarily to developmental defects and to pathological changes in the peritoneal reflections forming the suspensory ligaments of the abdominal viscera."
"Case of Sloughing of a Malignant Tumour which contained the Femoral Vessels: Cicatrization of the Wound - Death from return of the Disease," 8vo, 1849; reprinted from Trans Abernethian Soc of St Bart's Hosp.
"On the Development of Loose Cartilaginous Bodies," 8vo, 1851; reprinted from Trans Abernethian Soc of St Bart's Hosp, 1851.
"On Laryngitis from Local Causes," from Trans Abernethian Soc of St Bart's Hosp 1851.
Applied Magnetism. An Introduction to the Design of Eleotromagnetic Apparatus, 8vo, London, 1896.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit Med Jour, 1906, i, 179].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England