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Biographical entry Wakley, Thomas Henry (1821 - 1907)

MRCS July 25th 1845; FRCS Dec 7th 1849.

21 March 1821
5 April 1907
General surgeon


The eldest son of Thomas Wakley (1795-1862), the founder of the Lancet; born in London on March 21st, 1821, his mother being a daughter of Joseph Goodchild, a merchant in Tooley Street. It was intended that he should take Orders, and with that view he was privately educated by the Rev James Bassnett Mills, of Queen's College, Oxford, the son of a partner in Mills & Jowett, who printed the earlier numbers of the Lancet. Under his tuition Wakley lived for some time in Oxford but never matriculated.

He then entered University College, London, which had first been founded as the London University, and was coached by Erasmus Wilson (qv), afterwards going to Paris, where he lived with J Henry Bennett, the gynaecologist, continued his medical studies, and devoted much time to music and singing under Garcia and Ronconi. He was elected Assistant Surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital in 1848, and taking a house in Guilford Street, Russell Square, he filled the informal office of Casualty Surgeon. In 1849 an action for malpraxis was brought against him - embittered by his father's enemies - but the jury without leaving the box found a verdict in his favour. He moved soon afterwards to 7 Arlington Street, where he practised for many years as a consulting surgeon.

In 1857 his father made him and his youngest brother, James Goodchild Wakley, part proprietors of the Lancet, with a share in the management. Thomas Wakley died in 1862. James Wakley, the youngest son, became editor, and Thomas Henry retained an active interest in the conduct of the journal and wrote many articles in its columns. James Wakley died in 1886 and Thomas Henry became editor in association with Thomas Wakley, junior (1851-1909), his son.

He married in 1850 Henriette Anne, third daughter of Francis Radford Blake, of Rickmansworth, who survived him with the son Thomas and a daughter, Amy Florence. He died of cardiac failure on April 5th, 1907.

T H Wakley's energy was unbounded. When young he was a fine runner; he hunted until late in life, was a good shot, and was fond of fishing. As an editor he was shrewd, practical, and punctual. As a surgeon his name is chiefly associated with the invention of a urethral dilator, the use of which was attacked by Robert Wade (qv), and with the use of glycerin in the treatment of affections of the external auditory meatus. As a man he was large-hearted and charitable. He founded and financed from 1889 the "Lancet Relief Fund", to meet accidental distresses of medical men and their families, and he was a generous contributor to Epsom College, for the education of the sons of doctors. To the last he helped to direct the Hospital Sunday Fund, which had been virtually founded by his brother James.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Dict Nat Biog, Supplement ii, sub nomine et suet ibi cit. The centenary number of the Lancet, 1923, ii, 743, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England