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Biographical entry Welbank, Richard (1797 - 1870)

MRCS June 2nd 1820; FRCS Dec 11th 1843 one of the original 300 Fellows.

20 August 1870
General surgeon


Born in the Tower of London, where his father was an Ordnance Official. He was educated at the Charterhouse from 1809-1813, where he acquired a life-long taste for the Classics. He was articled to his uncle, John Welbank, practising in Chancery Lane, one of the old class of surgeons who dispensed their own drugs and surgical appliances, but did not attend cases of midwifery as in general practice. Richard Welbank then studied at St Bartholomew's Hospital as dresser to John Abernethy and House Surgeon to John Painter Vincent (qv), where he suggested to Vincent the application of fuming nitric acid to cases of sloughing phagedaena, as used in military hospitals for hospital gangrene. Previously, constitutional treatment had failed, and Abernethy had clasped his hands over a case and passed on to the next bed, exclaiming, "I don't know what to do!" Welbank described eight cases of sloughing phagedaena so treated. As a matter of fact, fuming nitric acid applied was less painful and more effectual in arresting the prevalent sloughing phagedaena in the hospital than the cautery.

Welbank then joined his uncle in practice in Chancery Lane, refusing, so it was said, the offer to become a general assistant to Abernethy in his private practice.

Welbank was the first Fellow elected by the Fellows to the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1843, and on taking his seat said, "I do value it extremely, as it may be the means of enabling me to extend to the younger members of the profession that encouragement which for thirty years of my professional life I have so much felt the disheartening want of myself". In the interests of the Surgeons on the staff of the large London Hospitals the College, by its regulations in 1826, had refused to recognize instruction given at County Hospitals and by private lecturers. Welbank supported Sir William Lawrence in an attempt to induce the Council to revise their regulations and was one of the signatories convening a meeting of Members of the College to consider the question. He retired from the Council in 1849 on account of failing health. He was an active Fellow of the Royal Medico-Chirurgical Society, then meeting in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and was a Vice-President. During later years he lived at Clarence Place, Kilburn, and died on Aug 20th, 1870. The sole photograph of him, taken by an amateur, is in the College Collection.

"Observations on Sloughing Phagedaena." - Med-Chir Trans, 1821, xi, 361. Practical Commentaries on the Present Knowledge and Treatment of Syphilis, 8vo, London, 1825.
"Necessity of Investigating the Distinctions between Syphilis and other Varieties of Venereal Disease." - Med-Chir Trans, 1827, xiii, 563.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit Med Jour, 1870, ii, 346].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England