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Biographical entry Webber, William (1800 - 1875)

MRCS May 3rd 1822; FRCS (elected but refused to sign the declaration) May 12th 1859; LSA 1821.

General surgeon


Studied at St Bartholomew's Hospital and practised at St Giles', Norwich, where he was instrumental in founding, and acted as Surgeon to, what was first termed the Free Hospital for the Hopeless, then the Royal Free Hospital for Incurables. Later, in the fifties, he removed to 4 Onslow Square, Brompton, London, SW, and by 1861 he had moved on to Tunbridge Wells.

Webber was continually in the midst of controversy, always a 'man with a grievance'. Even in the Square of St Bartholomew's he would buttonhole students and expound his ideas. In particular he made a claim to the invention of clamp forceps, and contested the priority of Koeberlé, Péan, and Spencer Wells. About 1856-1858 he made many attempts to get forcipressure forceps introduced into London Hospitals. Webber's anti-ligature forceps were demonstrated to Holmes Coote in 1858 on the case of a simple amputation of a breast, and Sir William Lawrence made a trial of the forceps in the operating theatre of St Bartholomew's in 1862 (Lancet, 1862, ii, 328). The subject is dealt with by Alban Doran in the British Medical Journal (1915, i, 556; see Spencer Wells's "Remarks on Forcipressure", Ibid, 1879, i, 926), who reproduced Ferguson the instrument maker's figures, representing four different kinds of teeth used in Webber forceps.

Among various actions at law, Webber instituted an action for libel against Sir Spencer Wells. Having been elected FRCS, and being introduced on June 8th, 1859, in order to sign the by-laws and declarations, Webber refused to sign until the Council explained why he had not been elected on a previous occasion, arguing that if unworthy upon the former he was equally so upon the latter. The President, Joseph Henry Green (qv), begged to know whether Mr Webber persisted in his objection, and upon his stating that he did so object, he was requested to withdraw. The Council took legal advice, which was to let the matter blow over. So to the last Webber appeared in the Calendar as a Member, for he had not paid his Fellowship fees.

Among Webber's controversial communications were:
The History of the Case and a Descriptive Account of the Operation performed upon William Forder at the Norwich Free Hospital for 'Incurables', together with Indisputable Evidence of the Accuracy of the Casts presented to the Hunterian Museum by Mr Webber. By desire of the President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. 8vo, London, 1854.
"Ligature before Amputation." - Brit Med Jour, 1857, p 399 - An important paper.
"Chloroform, Amylene, etc: how do they Kill?" - Ibid, 1857, p 431.
An Essay on the Cattle Murrain and Pole Axe Murders, 8vo, London, 1865.
Vaccination as it was and as it is, 8vo, London, 1871.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England