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Biographical entry Scott, John (1799 - 1846)

MRCS June 2nd 1820; FRCS Dec 11th 1843, one of the original 300 Fellows; LSA April 29th 1819.

20 February 1799
Bromley, Kent
11 April 1846
Ophthalmic surgeon


The only son and second child of James Scott (1770-1849) by his wife Mary; born at Bromley in Kent, according to the inscription on his funeral tablet, on Feb 20th, 1799. His father, a general practitioner of Clay Hill, Beckenham, Kent, was in good social standing and of high professional repute, being especially famed for his skill in treating chronic ulcers and diseased joints.

John Scott was educated privately at Sevenoaks until he entered Charterhouse School in 1813. Leaving in 1814, he was apprenticed to Sir William Blizard, then Senior Surgeon to the London Hospital. He went into practice with his father as soon as he had qualified, but having married Susannah Louisa, the third daughter of the Rev John Seymour Fleming St John, Canon of Worcester, he became connected with Sir Henry Halford. This probably caused him to settle in London as a consulting surgeon specializing more particularly in ophthalmic work, and living in New Broad Street in 1824. He was elected Surgeon to the Eye Hospital in Moorfields on Nov 24th, 1826, taking the place of Sir William Lawrence (qv), and serving until 1846. He unsuccessfully con┬Čtested the vacancy for an Assistant Surgeon at the London Hospital when William Blizard Harkness (1799-1827) was elected on July 25th, 1821, but was appointed on July 18th, 1827, in the vacancy caused by the death of Harkness. Scott was appointed full Surgeon to the Hospital on March 8th, 1831, and resigned his office on Dec 20th, 1845, by which time he had bought No 17 Park Lane.

He died at Brighton after a prolonged illness on April 11th, 1846, survived by his wife, but childless, and was buried in Bromley Church, where there is a very handsome tablet to his memory.

Scott revolutionized one department of surgery by introducing the passive treatment of diseased joints. His method, however, was distasteful to his contemporaries owing to the complications with which he surrounded it; but, stripped of these, the principle was established as a factor in surgery. He treated chronic ulcers as his father had taught him by strapping the leg with diachylon plaster from the toes upwards, and he was thus opposed to Baynton's method, which consisted in applying the strapping for only a short distance above the ulcer. 'Scott's dressing' and 'Scott's ointment' were once household words in every hospital out-patient department, but they are now rarely used. His ointment had a camphorated mercurial base, and constant practice is said to have rendered Scott the most skilful bandager in London at a time when bandaging in the London hospitals was almost a fine art.

Scott was distinguished as a surgeon by the rapidity and by the general accuracy of his diagnosis. He displayed great decision and energy in the treatment of his patients, though, like many of his contemporaries, he handled them roughly and cared little for their feelings. He was a bold but not a particularly brilliant operator, and is said to have been one of the first surgeons in England to remove the upper jaw, though John Lizars, of Edinburgh, had performed a successful operation of this kind on Jan 10th, 1830.

In person Scott was tall and thin, with clean-cut features and clear grey eyes. He was acute in thought and action, but was of an uncertain and irritable temper which disease sometimes rendered overbearing. A man of deep religious feeling, he left considerable sums of money to various religious charities, "in order", as he stated, "that others may enjoy that free salvation purchased by a Saviour's blood which has been so precious unto my own soul".

The bust by Sir Francis Chantrey, RA (1781-1841), presented to the college by Sir L A Selby-Bigge in May, 1918, is that of James Scott, father of John Scott. A portrait by J H Howard, RA, hangs in 'The Deanery' of the London Hospital. It was engraved by J W Reynolds.


Surgical Observations on Chronic Inflammations and Diseases of Joints, 8vo, London, 1828; a new edition by W K Smith, 1857. This is a valuable work, as it lays down very clearly the necessity of putting diseased joints at rest. It preceded the teaching of Benjamin Brodie, John Hilton, and Howard Marsh.
Cases of Tic Douloureux and other Forms of Neuralgia, 8vo, London, 1834.
Cataract and its Treatment, 8vo, London, 1843. The object of this work was to introduce a sickle-shaped knife, but the instrument never came into common use.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Dict Nat Biog, sub nomine et auct ibi cit.London Hosp Gaz, 1913, xix, 269, et auct ibi cit. Treacher Collins's History and Tradition of the Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, 1929, with portrait facing page 65].

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