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Biographical entry Wall, Alfred John (1847 - 1898)

MRCS Nov 19th 1869; FRCS Dec 12th 1872; MD Lond 1873; LRCP Lond 1869.

21 August 1847
2 May 1898
General surgeon


Born on Aug 21st, 1847, the son of John Pritchard Wall, a surgeon with a large West-end practice. He was educated at Epsom College, and matriculated at the University of London in 1865, afterwards entering at St Mary's Hospital, where he was a hard worker and a prize-winner: he also studied in Paris. He gained the Anatomy Scholarship of his School in 1868, and this distinction also conferred upon him the Assistant Demonstratorship of Anatomy.

He was appointed Resident Medical Officer to St Mary's Hospital in 1870, and Resident Obstetric Officer in 1871. In 1873 he was placed high in the examination for the Indian Medical Service, and, arriving in India, was almost at once appointed Resident Medical Officer at Bhangulpore (Bengal), 1874. In 1875 he was offered a seat on the Snake Poison Commission, and entered as its youngest member. As such the greater part of the practical work of the Commission fell to his lot and in time he became its President. He was compelled to send in his resignation owing to failing health three years later. He was twice asked to reconsider his resignation, but on twice declining to do so was thanked by Government and given the choice of two posts - the Residency Medical Officer-ship in Nepaul or the Deputy Professorship of Anatomy in Calcutta. He chose Nepaul, and some time afterwards contracted malaria while travelling on furlough. Pneumonia followed, and he was invalided home. He never recovered sufficiently to return to India.

In 1883 he published a work on snake poisons which won him a wide reputation. He then studied cholera, following successive European outbreaks in person. He rendered distinguished service in Italy and Sicily, the municipality of one town presenting him with its freedom and an address as a token of recognition. As a lifelong student of pathology, he now turned his attention still more closely to it during prolonged visits to Budapest, Berlin, and Paris. Anxious to put his notes into shape, he was just starting for the Riviera in December, 1897, when he fell ill in Paris and was advised to return to England. His life was ended by his own hand, after evidence of serious mental disease, at Guildford on May 2nd, 1898. An old St Mary's man, who knew Wall intimately, wrote of him:-

"In manner he was diffident, quiet and retiring. He was extremely well informed in every subject of art, science and literature - the best possible of companions. He talked German, French and Italian fluently, and was keenly interested in the politics as well as the literature of the countries in which he made himself at home."

His mental brilliancy continued to the last to charm those with whom he came in contact.

He was a member of the Dermatological Society and belonged to the East Indian United Service Club, SW. There is an obituary notice in the Indian Medical Record, 1898, xiv, 528.

His promotions, etc., according to Lieut.-Colonel Crawford, were as follows : Assistant Surgeon in Bengal Army on April 1st, 1873 ; Surgeon on July 1st, 1873; Lieutenant-Colonel on July 26th, 1882. He retired on Feb 26th, 1884.

Indian Snake Poisons, their Nature and Effects, 12mo, London, 1883; 2nd ed, 1898.
Asiatic Cholera: its History, Pathology and Modern Treatment, 8vo, London, 1893.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England