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Biographical entry Tuson, Edward William (1802 - 1865)

MRCS June 23rd 1826; FRCS Dec 11th 1843 one of the original 300 Fellows; FRS 1838.

25 March 1802
10 November 1865
Anatomist and General surgeon


Born on March 25th, 1802, the son of John Tuson, a well-known general practitioner in London. He began the study of medicine under Carpue at the little school in Dean Street, Soho, and then entered the Middlesex Hospital. As House Surgeon there he, at the early age of 22, came prominently before the medical world by the publication of his great work, Myology, "A Series of Plates Superposed, showing the Different Layers of Muscles in Situ, with their Origins and Insertions". The importance of this work can scarcely be estimated by the student of the present generation, for subjects for dissection were only to be obtained at the private schools through the agency of the resurrection men. Such superposed anatomical plates were in constant use throughout Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, both by artists and medical students.

After qualifying Tuson began to lecture on anatomy on his own account. His lectures were given in a room in the Gerrard Street Dispensary, Soho. It was a small beginning, and he was proud when he had, as he thought, perfected his first pupil in anatomy. An idea was then prevalent that the examinations at the College were capriciously, if not unfairly, conducted. Tuson's pupil went up and failed, and his teacher, possessed with the current prejudices, was at once of opinion that the young man had been plucked in order to ruin his (Tuson's) little nascent school. This was in 1826 before the reform of the College Examination system, and only a few years after Cruikshank had published his mordantly satiric drawing entitled "An Examination at the College", in which a deaf examiner asks a student to describe the organs of hearing through an ear-trumpet. Tuson complained to Sir Astley Cooper, who encouraged him and promised to support his school. He therefore soon removed from Gerrard Street, taking the School of Anatomy in Little Windmill Street, which Dermott had vacated. Here with an able staff he conducted a flourishing school.

On Feb 28th, 1833, Tuson was elected Assistant Surgeon at the Middlesex Hospital, beating Benjamin Phillips and Alexander Shaw by a small majority. On June 2nd, 1836, he was elected to the office of Surgeon in succession to Sir Charles Bell, resigned.

On the formation of the Medical School at the Middlesex Hospital, Tuson joined it and brought over to it his own pupils, thus materially contributing to its success. In 1847 things were not going well at the Hospital, the management of which was far from satisfactory. Quarrels arose among the surgical staff, and Tuson came into collision with his colleagues in the matter of some school fees. He acted indiscreetly, and in the end the whole surgical staff resigned in order to compel his retirement. From that day Tuson ceased to be a public man. His ardent ambition had been crushed, his position blighted, his hopes destroyed. For the last fifteen years or so of his life this once promising anatomist and teacher was little known beyond the circle of his private practice at 15 Harley Street.

Tuson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on April 5th, 1838, and was also a Fellow of the Linnean Society, but made no contribution to either. He died on Nov 10th, 1865. His son was John Edward Tuson (qv).

Myology: Illustrated by Plates; in Four Parts, fol, London, 1825; 2nd ed, 1828.
A Supplement to Myology: containing the Arteries, Veins, Nerves, and Lymphatics of the Human Body, the Abdominal and Thoracic Viscera, the Ear and Eye, the Brain, and the Gravid Uterus, with the Foetal Circulation, fol, London, 1828. Both these monumental works have superposed coloured plates of some depth.
The Anatomy and Surgery of Inguinal and Femoral Hernia, illustrated by plates coloured from nature, and interspersed with practical remarks, fol, London, 1834.
The Dissector's Guide, or Student's Companion. Illustrated by numerous woodcuts, clearly exhibiting and explaining the dissection of every part of the human body. Of this, the 2nd and 3rd American editions were published in 1887 and 1844 (8vo, Boston).
The Cause and Treatment of Curvature of the Spine and Diseases of the Vertebral Column, 8vo, 25 plates, London, 1841.
The Structure and Functions of the Female Breast, as they relate to its Health, Derangement, and Disease, 8vo, London, 1846.
To the Governors of the Middlesex Hospital (relative to the Disputes which exist between the Medical Officers of the Hospital and himself), 8vo, London, 1847.
Spinal Debility: its Prevention, Pathology, and Cure, in relation to Curvatures, Paralysis, Epilepsy, and various Deformities, 8vo, London, 1861.
He also published a Pocket Compendium of Anatomy, and contributed to the Lancet and Medical Times.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1865, ii, 719].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England