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Biographical entry Smith, Frederick John (1857 - 1919)

MRCS April 28th 1885; FRCS Dec 8th 1887; MB Oxon 1885; MD 1891; LRCP Lond 1885; MRCP 1887; FRCP 1895.

17 August 1857
Castle Donington, Leicestershire
30 April 1919
Colyton, Devon


Born on Aug 17th, 1857, at Castle Donington, Leicestershire, the youngest son of John Smith, a surgeon of considerable repute during forty years at Castle Donington. He received his early education at Christ's Hospital, where he was distinguished both as a scholar and as an athlete. He won an open mathematical scholarship at Balliol College, Oxford, where he matriculated on Oct 18th, 1876. He was also a Christ's Hospital Exhibitioner. At Oxford he took a 1st Class in Mathematical Moderations (1877) and a 3rd Class in the Final School of Natural Science (1880). He then acted for a short time as a schoolmaster, and entered the London Hospital Medical School on Oct 1st, 1881. At the London Hospital he was awarded in due course the Entrance Science Scholarship, the Letheby Prize, the Out-patients' Dressers' Prize, and Certificates of Merit in chemistry, medicine, and surgery.

In 1885 he was House Physician, and gained the Radcliffe Travelling Fellowship at Oxford. From 1887-1891 he was Medical Registrar at his hospital. He was elected Assistant Physician in September, 1891, became Physician in July, 1902, and Consulting Physician in July, 1918, after thirty-seven years of work in connection with the institution. He was at one time Lecturer on Medicine in the School, but later became Lecturer on Forensic Medicine and Medical Jurisprudence, subjects to which he had devoted much attention. He was also Senior Pathologist and an active member of the Medical College Board.

He was a Referee under the Workmen's Compensation Act; Examiner in Forensic Medicine at the Universities of Oxford, Leeds, and Birmingham; Assistant Physician to the Hospital for Diseases of the Chest, City Road; and at the time of his death Consulting Physician to the City of London Dispensary and the National Orthopedic Hospital. He was also Examiner at the Royal College of Physicians, London, and Examiner in Medicine at the Apothecaries' Society.

He was much interested in the Hunterian Society, serving as Hon Secretary, delivering the Oration in 1900 "On the Influence of Modern Surgery on Medical Practice", and being elected President in 1904. He frequently took part in the discussions of the Medico-Legal Society, of which he had been President during the difficult period of the European War. For many years he was an active member of the British Medical Association, especially of the Metropolitan Counties Branch. He was one of its Secretaries from 1904-1907, and President in 1914-1915, when his address was "On Modern Vascular Problems", in which he criticized some recent developments and asked some crucial questions about blood-pressure. He was Secretary of the Section of Medicine at the Annual Meeting of the British Medical Association in 1901, Vice-President in 1912, and was for some years a Member of the Central Council, and from 1912-1917 Chairman of the Science Committee.

F J Smith was a sound, practical physician, careful in diagnosis, and possessed of a knowledge of men and the world which disposed him to treat the patient and not be misled by some terminological label. The constitution of his mind was critical, and in therapeutics he was ever ready to challenge accepted views, as was well illustrated by his persistent teaching with regard to diet in typhoid fever. As early as 1901 he spoke and wrote in favour of free feeding up to satisfaction of the appetite, but starvation when the appetite was in abeyance, free supplies of plain water, and free evacuation by saline aperients, especially sodium sulphate. He had an offhand manner and a very colloquial way of expressing himself, which sometimes misled those who did not know him well; but to his friends 'F J', as they always called him, was known as a man of wide knowledge and shrewd judgement, always disposed to take a charitable view, always ready to give of his best in any difficulty.

His manner was probably of the kind then traditional at Christ's Hospital and at Balliol, which, perhaps alone among Oxford colleges, despised suavity in Smith's day. An Oxford man, a student at the London Hospital under Smith, noted that he spoke German fluently, and used his accomplishment to rate, if not to abuse, the poor, meek, and shabby foreigners from the East End slums who crowded the out-patient rooms. To his colleagues, however, Smith appeared in an increasingly amiable light.

He retired from the London Hospital and from practice in July, 1918, feeling, as he expressed it, like a schoolboy going off for a long holiday. Within a year, however, he died at his country house at Colyton, Devon, on April 30th, 1919, after an illness of several months, and was buried at Colyton. He married in 1889 Janet Nicholls Macnamara, but had no children.


Problems in Cardiac Pathology, 8vo, Cambridge, 1891.
Introduction to the Outlines of the Principles of Differential Diagnosis, with Clinical Memoranda, 8vo, London, 1899.
Then and Now (Hunterian Society Oration), 1900.
Lectures on Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology, as delivered at the London Hospitall, 12mo, London, 1900; 2nd ed, 1908. This contains his clear and authoritative teaching at the London Hospital.
Law for Medical Men: A Book for Practitioners containing Extracts from Acts of Parliament, 8vo, London, 1913.
He edited Alfred Swaine Taylor's Principles and Practice of Medical Jurisprudence,
2 vols, 5th and 6th eds, 1905 and 1910. The standard work of the time. Articles in Knocker's Workmen's Compensation Act and French's Index of Differential
"Treatment of Typhoid Fever."- Med Soc Trans, 1901, xxiv, 84.
"Treatment of Typhoid." - Amer Practitioner, 1913, xlvii, 227.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lond Hosp Gaz, 1919, xxii, 224, with a full-page portrait - an excellent likeness].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England