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Biographical entry Teale, Thomas Pridgin junior (1831 - 1923)

MRCS March 28th 1855; FRCS May 23rd 1857; MB Oxon 1855; DSc Leeds 1904; FRS 1888.

28 June 1831
13 November 1923
General surgeon, Ophthalmic surgeon and Public health reformer


Born at Leeds on June 28th, 1831, the eldest son of Thomas Pridgin Teale, senr (qv), and succeeded his father both officially and in practice. He was educated at Leeds Grammar School, entered Winchester College in 1844, and matriculated from Brasenose College, Oxford, on Feb 2nd, 1849. He graduated BA in 1852 after gaining a 4th class in Mathematics, and then entered as a medical student at King's College, London. Selected by Sir William Bowman to act as Clinical Assistant at the Moorfields Ophthalmic Hospital in the absence of J Whitaker Hulke (qv) at the Crimean War, he received a training in ophthalmology, although he never specialized therein. After qualifying in 1855 he spent six months in visiting the medical schools on the Continent. Immediately after taking the Oxford MB he was appointed Lecturer in Anatomy and Surgery at the Leeds School of Medicine which his father had been instrumental in founding. He retained this post till 1876, and in 1864 became Surgeon to the Leeds General Infirmary, retiring from the active staff in 1884 after establishing a very high reputation both as surgeon and teacher. He was then appointed Consulting Surgeon with the charge of six beds. On June 7th, 1888, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Teale was primarily a teacher, a surgeon, and an ophthalmologist; secondarily a reformer in domestic sanitation at a time when the public gave little thought to drains, ventilation, and fogs. As a surgeon he collaborated with Sir Clifford Allbutt, then a physician on the staff of the Leeds General Infirmary, to revolutionize the treatment of the condition known as 'scrofulous neck', when as yet the infective character of tubercle was unknown. It was formerly the practice to treat enlarged glands of the neck in children by poulticing, painting with iodine, or other local remedies, with the result that they suppurated and ugly scars were left. Clifford Allbutt advocated, and Teale practised, the operative removal of these glands as soon as it was clear that simpler means were failing to give relief. The idea was new, but it soon met with general approval, for the surgical scar proved to be less unsightly than that produced by natural processes. Beginning practice at a time when the surgery of the eye was still undertaken by general surgeons, Teale modified a suction curette for the extraction of soft cataract; invented an operation for the relief of symblepharon; showed the value of atropine in the treatment of iritis; and gave an account of two cases of cysticercus discovered by the use of the ophthalmoscope. In surgery he advocated the operation of lithotomy rather than of crushing for the removal of stone from the bladder by those who were not specially skilled in the use of the lithotrite; he advocated ovariotomy as a legitimate surgical operation at a time when it was somewhat in disrepute, and, as might be expected, he continued his father's method of amputating by rectangular flaps.

As a domestic sanitarian, he wrote in 1879 Dangers to Health, a pictorial guide to the more common sanitary defects met with in dwelling-houses. This little book consists of fifty-five coloured plates with simple explanations. It had a large circulation, and was translated into German by the late Princess Christian, and also into French and Spanish. It did much to destroy the system of cesspools and dumbwells which had continued a feature of house drainage in many towns until late in the Victorian era, while it helped to establish the flourishing trade of the sanitary engineer. It was written, however, before bacteriology had become a science, and too much importance is laid on the escape of sewer gas. Teale also printed a series of lectures on "Economy of Coal in House Fires", "The Principles of Domestic Fireplace Construction", "Hurry, Worry, and Money", and "Dust and Fresh Air".

The "Teale grate", by which his name is probably best known to the general public, was the result of several years' experience and of a number of experiments to determine the best means of obtaining an open fireplace with slow combustion and a maximum of heating power. It abolished the old iron grate, placed high up in the fireplace, with black bars for winter and polished steel bars for summer use. The idea, however, was not wholly new, as Teale discovered to his great delight one day when, visiting Hatfield House, he found the principles he advocated were embodied there in grates of the sixteenth century.

Sir Clifford Allbutt, in a tribute to the memory of Teale, tells of his informal appearance at their first meeting in Leeds in 1863, when he wore a bowler hat and lounge suit, being one of the first to discard traditional professional garb. The whole article by Sir Clifford contains valuable biographical matter, and deals especially with their early endeavour to obviate the scars of scrofula.

Teale died suddenly at North Grange, Headingley, on Nov 13th, 1923, aged 92, survived by four sons and four daughters, one of his sons carrying on the family medical tradition. He was twice married: (1) to Alice, daughter of the Rev W H Teale (she died in 1891); and (2) to Jeannie, second daughter of D C Jones, of Tamworth.

Excellent portraits of him accompany his biography in the British Medical Journal and the "Tribute" by Sir Clifford Allbutt in the same journal, as also the short notice of his work as an ophthalmologist in Professor Hirschberg's "Geschichte der Augenheilkunde" in Graefe-Saemisch-Hess Handbuch der gesamten Augenheilkunde (2nd edition, Band 14, Abt. iv, 397; Leipzig, 1914).

"On Lacrymal Obstructions, treated on Mr Bowman's Plan," 16mo, London, 1860; reprinted from Med Times and Gaz, 1860, i, 9, etc.
"On the Relief of Symblepharon by Transplantation of Conjunctiva," 8vo, London, 1861; reprinted from Ophthalmic Hosp Rep, 1860-1, iii, 253.
"On Atropine and Mercury in Acute Iritis." - Ibid, 1866, v, 156.
Dangers to Health in our own Houses: A Lecture, 8vo, 10 plates, London, 1877; 4th ed (Dangers to Health: a Pictorial Guide to Domestic Sanitary Defects), 8vo, 70 plates, London, 1883. German, Italian, and other translations were published.
Hurry, Worry, and Money: the Bane of Modern Education. Being the Presidential Address delivered in the Health Department of the Social Science Congress...with an Appendix, 8vo, London, 1883.
Economy of Coal in House Fires, 1866.
Healthy Houses, 8vo, London, 1884. International Health Exhibition Lecture No 10.
"A Suction-curette for Extraction of Soft Cataract," 8vo, London, 1865; reprinted from Ophthalmic Hosp Rep, 1863-5, iv, 197. The curette was converted into a tube by roofing over the groove. It was connected with an india-rubber tube and suction was made by the mouth of the operator.
"Abscess in Lung cured by Incision and Drainage." - Lancet, 1884, ii, 6.
"On Enucleation of nevus," 8vo, London, 1867; reprinted from Med-Chir Trans, 1867, 1, 57.
"Scraping in Surgery." - Liverpool Med-Chir Jour, 1887, vii, 36.
"The Address in Surgery delivered at the Annual Meeting of the British Medical Association," 8vo, London, 1889; reprinted from Brit Med Jour, 1889, ii, 362.
"Abandonment of Iridectomy in the Extraction of Hard Cataract," 8vo, London, 1893 (Bowman Lecture); reprinted from Trans Ophthalmol Soc United Kingdom, 1893, xiii, 1.
The Need for Reform of the Medical Examination System, 12mo, Leeds, 1896.
"On the Use of Diagram and Rough Drawing in the Record of Surgical Cases," 4to, plate, London, 1895; reprinted from Clinical Sketches.
"On the Surgery of Scrofulous Glands" in Allbutt and Teale's Clinical Lectures, 8vo, London, 1885.
Preface to Hector McLean Wilson's Cottage Sanitation, 8vo, London, 1893.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit Med Jour, 1923, ii, 948, 1007, with portrait. Rolleston's Sir Thomas Clifford Allbutt, London, 1929, passim. Treacher Collins's The History and Traditions of the Moorfields Eye Hospital, 1929, 88].

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