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Biographical entry Wilson, William James (1792? - 1855)

MRCS July 26th 1813; FRCS Dec 11th 1843 one of the original 300 Fellows.

19 July 1855
General surgeon


Was born at Leeds about 1792, the son of a solicitor. His parents died when he was young and he was brought up by the kindness of a sister. He was apprenticed at first to Mr Braithwaite, a Quaker surgeon, who was the proprietor of the preparation of opium known as 'the Black Drop' (see LAWRENCE, Sir WILLIAM). On the death of Braithwaite he was transferred to Mr Rowland, a well-known surgeon practising at Leicester. Later he moved to Islington and under Mr Spencer attended the practice of Clerkenwell Workhouse, studying at St Bartholomew's Hospital and becoming a dresser at the London Hospital. He also attended the Infirmary for Diseases of the Eye in Charterhouse Square.

In 1813 he began to practise in Manchester, and in the following year was instrumental in founding the Manchester Institution for Curing Diseases of the Eye. He was Surgeon to the Charity from 1814-1826 and was also on the Staff of the Lying-in Hospital. In 1846 he was elected Surgeon to the Manchester Infirmary and held office until 1855. He was also Surgeon to the Female Penitentiary; President of the Manchester Medical Society from 1843-1845, and of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association meeting at Manchester in 1854. He practised at 204 Clairville, Oxford Road, Manchester, and, retiring on account of ill health, died at Tickwood, near Wellington, Shropshire, on July 19th, 1855.

Wilson had a great reputation for lithotrity as well as for the treatment of diseases of the eye, and it was to him that Charlotte Brontë brought her father, who was operated upon for cataract on Aug 25th, 1846.

Wilson is described as being well formed, of middle size, easy and graceful in all his movements. The countenance, not particularly striking in repose - for his features were rather small - lighted up with intelligence when he talked. A most agreeable courtesy of expression, occasionally blended with rich humour to which he had a natural propensity, lent charm to his large and original store of anecdotes. To his professional brethren he was most generous, both in attending their families and lending them instruments.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brockbank's Honorary Medical Staff of the Manchester Infirmary, 4to, Manchester, 1904, 269, with full-page portrait, et auct ibi cit. London Med Directory, 1856].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England