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Biographical entry Middlemore, Richard (1804 - 1891)

MRCS April 13th 1827; FRCS Dec 11th 1843 one of the original 300 Fellows; LSA 1825.

12 October 1804
1 March 1891
Ophthalmic surgeon


Born on Oct 12th, 1804. He was descended from the family which had been Lords of the Manor and owners of estates at Edgbaston and other parts of Worcestershire and Warwickshire from the time of Henry II. He was apprenticed in 1820 to Chawner, a well-known surgeon at Lichfield, and in 1823 entered St Bartholomew's Hospital, where he was dresser to Abernethy and to Vincent, gaining their favourable regard. Among other Birmingham fellow-students were Edwin Bartleet, Frederick Ryland, and Richard Owen, who became his life-long friend. Abernethy recommended him warmly to Joseph Hodgson (qv), Surgeon to the Birmingham General Hospital.

Middlemore was for three years Hodgson's dresser at the hospital, and for ten years Hodgson's assistant. But it was to Sir William Lawrence that Middlemore owed the direction which determined his life. In 1831 he gained the Jacksonian Prize for his dissertation "On Diseases of the Eye and its Appendages, and the Treatment of them", which in 1835 he extended to A Treatise on the Diseases of the Eye and its Appendages (2 vols., 8vo, London, 1835).

The Birmingham Eye Hospital had been founded in 1823. Middlemore was appointed Assistant Surgeon, then Surgeon from 1828. In 1836 he issued a prospectus of a journal of ophthalmology which failed for lack of support; but he frequently published lectures, reports, and papers on ophthalmology which made him the chief authority at the time in this country, and he was quoted abroad. It was no unusual thing for him to be engaged upon magazine and review work for a great part of the night, and then begin to see free patients, after an early and meagre breakfast, until ten o'clock. He would afterwards attend to his private patients till three in the afternoon, and would drive to Lichfield, Leamington, or some other town for a consultation, taking a hasty meal on the way.

In 1877 he founded a Triennial Prize in Ophthalmology to be awarded by the British Medical Association, a body he warmly supported from its earliest days. In 1888 he made a donation of £1000 to endow a course of post-graduate lectures in ophthalmology at the Birmingham and Midland Eye Hospital, and in 1890 gave £2000 to the Birmingham Asylum for the Blind, which he had been instrumental in establishing in 1838. He continued in practice until 1889, and maintained his active interest in ophthalmology until his death at The Limes, Bristol Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, on March 1st, 1891.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1891, i, 579. Brit Med Jour, 1891, i, 611].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England