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Biographical entry Waring, Edward John (1819 - 1891)

CIE 1881; MRCS March 18th 1842; FRCS Oct 13th 1864; MD St Andrews 1865; MRCP Lond 1865; FRCP 1871.

14 December 1819
22 January 1891
General surgeon and Physician


Born at Tiverton on Dec 14th, 1819, the sixth son of Captain Henry Waring, RN, of the city of Hereford. The family was peculiarly gifted, several of the brothers being well known in the world of letters. The second son, George, a scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Wadham and Magdalen Hall, Oxford, was called by that mordant conversationalist Thorold Rogers "the most learned man in England, perhaps in Europe". Francis Robert Waring, another brother, was well known for his opposition to the theory of evolution, and John Burley Waring was a distinguished authority on architecture and ceramic art. Here, then, was one of those brilliant families comparable to the Darwins, the Pollocks, the De Morgans, and, in the ranks of the profession, the Pagets and the Ainsworths. Browning may have had in view the Warings when he wrote the rugged poem beginning, "What's become of Waring?" though he referred directly to his friend Mr Dommett.

Edward John Waring obtained his first schooling at Lyme Regis, his master, Mr Roberts, being a well-known authority on the Monmouth Rebellion. From Lyme he went to Ilminster Grammar School, and completed his education at Bristol Infirmary, the Lamb Street School, and Charing Cross Hospital. Before qualifying he acted as Surgeon on a ship bound for Sierra Leone and to Jamaica (1841). In 1842 he qualified in England, but returned at once to Jamaica, where he practised and acted as Medical Officer of Health. In 1843 he was again in England and took service under the Commissioner of Emigration, visiting Australia, the Cape, Calcutta, Trinidad, and the United States.

In 1847 he married Caroline Anne, daughter of William Day, JP, DL, and settled at Uckfield in Sussex; but heavy financial losses forced him once more to start on a professional career. He took service as Assistant Surgeon to the Madras Establishment of the East India Company, and was posted in charge of the remote station of Mergui, Tennasserim Provinces, where he saw the Burmese War through and received the War Medal. The position involved grave responsibility and complete isolation, being a thousand miles from Calcutta, with a contingent of less than ten Europeans, whilst there was a large gaol and body of Sepoys to look after.

While at Mergui he laid the foundation of his subsequent wide reputation both in Europe and in India. He brought out the first edition of his Practical Therapeutics, and then began his life's labour as an Indian pharmacologist. The difficulty of transport occasioned by the Burmese War caused the drug supplies of Mergui to run short, and this led Waring to search the native bazaars and the forests for substitutes - a task which led to the valuable investigation he eventually undertook into the properties and medicinal uses of the indigenous plants of India.

In 1853 he became Residency Surgeon at Travancore, and here he pursued his botanical and pharmacological studies, published papers in the Indian medical journals, and collected and recorded with characteristic care 300 cases of abscess of the liver. Appointed in 1856 Durbar Physician to the Maharajah of Travancore, he investigated elephantiasis, which he believed to be febrile. He published Bazaar Medicine in English and a Tamil translation in 1860, which was followed by other translations, and thereby exercised a most salutary influence over native medical practice. An elaborate Encyclopaedia Therapeutica now begun was afterwards published by the New Sydenham Society as the basis of the Bibliotheca Therapeutica (1878-1879). Another good work undertaken was the establishment of a school for children of the Pulayar or slave caste, which had been much needed.

In 1863, owing to failing health, Waring returned to England. He retired from the Indian Medical Service on Sept 13th, 1865, and in the same year was made responsible editor of the Indian Pharmacopoeia, which appeared in 1868. The committee acting with him numbered such members as Sir J Ranald Martin, FRS (qv), Sir W O'Shaughnessy Brooke, MD, FRS, Alexander Gibson, FLS, Daniel Hanbury, FRS, Dr T Thomson, FRS, Dr J Forbes Watson, FLS, and Dr R Wight, FRS, and their joint labours were published in 1868.

Waring, largely occupied as a philanthropist, was a pioneer of cottage hospitals, and was a useful member of the original Committee of the London Medical Mission in St Giles's. He also wrote upon and worked for a 'Spectacles Mission' which supplied poor people with glasses. His own growing blindness led him to sympathize with those similarly afflicted. His sight failed in 1884, and he was blind and unable to pursue his favourite reading until successfully operated on for cataract.

In 1887 he presented his fine library to the Army Medical School at Netley, and Sir Joseph Fayrer (qv) in acknowledging the donation said:

"Dr Waring is a great author and physician, and a man who has conferred infinite benefits on his profession. Such a valuable gift as this could scarcely be obtained elsewhere, for, on the subject of materia medica, it is unrivalled, and I know no man in London who has such a collection."

Waring's career was one of exceptional brilliancy, and the CIE conferred upon him in 1881 was a tardy and scant recognition of his work. He was a Fellow of the Royal Medico-Chirurgical Society, and an honorary member of the Société de Pharmacie, Paris. There is a characteristic portrait of him in the Midland Medical Miscellany, 1883, ii, 97.

His death occurred at his residence, 49 Clifton Gardens, Maids Vale, W, on Jan 22nd, 1891.

A Manual of Practical Therapeutics, considered chiefly with reference to Articles of the Materia Medica, 8vo, London, 1854. A copy of the American edition of this book (8vo, Philadelphia, 1866) was placed at the headquarters of every regiment in the United States Army. 4th ed. by Dr Dudley Buxton, 8vo, London, 1886.
An Enquiry into the Statistics and Pathology of some Points connected with Abscess in the Liver, as met with in the East Indies, 8vo, Trebandrum, 1854.
On Elephantiasis, as it exists in Travancore, 8vo, Calcutta, 1857.
Notes on the Affection called 'Burning of the Feet', 8vo, np, 1860.
Notes on Some of the Principal Indigenous Anthelmintics of India, 8vo, np, 1860.
Remarks on the Uses of Some of the Bazaar Medicines and Common Medical Plants of India, with a full index of diseases, indicating their treatment by these and other agents procurable throughout India; to which are added, directions for treatment in cases of drowning, snake-bites, etc, 8vo, Travancore, 1860; 2nd ed, 12mo, London, 1874; edited by Sir Charles Pardey Lukis (qv), 6th ed, 16mo, London, 1907.
Notes on Some of the Indigenous Medical Plants of India (Emetics), 8vo, np, 1861.
Notes on Some of the Indigenous Medical Plants of India (Purgatives), 8vo, np, 1861.
The Tropical Resident at Home. Letters addressed to Europeans returning from India and the Colonies on Subjects connected with their Health and General Welfare, 8vo, London, 1866.
Cottage Hospitals: their Objects, Advantages, and Management, 8vo, London, 1867.
Pharmacopoeia of India, 8vo, London, 1868. Translated by Daniel W Chapman, revised by the late Samuel F Green. Tamil text, 8vo, Jaffna, 1888.
The Hospital Prayer Book: containing Prayers for Daily and Occasional Use, also a short form of public service for lay readers in hospitals; with a few remarks on conducting the same, 12mo, London, 1872; 2nd ed, 1888.
Bibliotheca Therapeutica, or Bibliography of Therapeutics, chiefly in reference to articles of the materia medica, with numerous critical, historical, and therapeutical annotations, and an appendix containing the bibliography of British mineral waters, 8vo, London, New Sydenham Society, 1878.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1891, i, 344].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England