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Biographical entry Smith, Thomas Heckstall (1806 - 1881)

MRCS March 31st 1843; FRCS Nov 10th 1859; LSA 1828.

4 October 1806
3 May 1881
General surgeon


Born in Nottingham on Oct 4th, 1806, of a good family, but was without means. He went to Lincoln Grammar School, and, through the kindness of a relative, was apprenticed to White, of Nottingham. He then studied at St Thomas's Hospital, whilst supporting himself almost entirely by writing for the London Medical Gazette. Nevertheless he won prizes and was Dresser to Joseph Henry Green (qv), from whose scholarly and philosophic mind he learnt much. A favourite leader among the students, he was earnest, energetic, and wasted no time in idle pursuits. He was Physician's Assistant (House Physician) at Westminster Hospital, next Assistant to Septimus Wray, of Salisbury Court, Fleet Street. In 1829, on the recommendation of the St Thomas's Hospital staff, he was introduced at St Mary Cray, Kent, where he built up a large and remunerative practice and gained the esteem of friends and patients by the freshness and originality of his remarks.

He was a zealous member of the British Medical Association from early days; in 1862 and 1863 he was President of the South-Eastern Branch; in 1870-1871, of the Metropolitan Counties Branch, and was for many years a Member of Council of the Association.

His chivalrous defence of the honour of the profession on the occasion of the action of Bonney v Smith in 1869 was recognized by a testimonial presented to him by the South-Eastern Branch. With Propert and others he took an active part in establishing the Royal Medical Benevolent College at Epsom. In his own district he held the usual appointments and for years was Surgeon in the West Kent Yeomanry. He was an ardent Churchman, and was successful in founding an Ecclesiastical and Vicarage District at Crocker Hill, and, with others, the endowment of a local Church. In politics he described himself as an 'old Pitt Tory'.

He retired in 1873, and in June, 1876, experienced an attack of apoplexy from which he rallied, and died from bronchitis, after a few days' illness, on May 3rd, 1881. There is no portrait of him in the College Collection, but his Obituary Notice refers to the fine head and handsome, genial face of this grand old man.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit Med Jour, 1881, i, 831].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England