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Biographical entry Solly, Samuel (1805 - 1871)

MRCS May 9th 1828; FRCS Dec 11th 1843, one of the original 300 Fellows; FRS 1836.

13 May 1805
St Mary Axe
24 September 1871
General surgeon


Born on May 13th, 1805, in Jeffrey Square, St Mary Axe, the son of Isaac Solly, a Baltic merchant. He was educated under Eliezer Cogan (1762-1855), the Unitarian schoolmaster of Higham Hill, Walthamstow, where he had Disraeli, Dr Hampden - afterwards Bishop of Hereford - and Russell Gurney as his schoolfellows. He was articled in May, 1822, to Benjamin Travers, senr (qv), Surgeon to St Thomas's Hospital, and was one of the last of the Surgeons to a London Hospital who succeeded to his post by virtue of having paid a large apprenticeship fee. He finished his medical studies in Paris, and commenced to practise in his father's house in St Mary Axe in 1831. He moved to St Helen's Place in 1837, and to the house, 6 Savile Row - made vacant by the death of Aston Key (qv) in 1849.

From 1833-1839 he lectured on anatomy and physiology in the Medical School at St Thomas's Hospital. On July 2nd, 1841, he was elected Assistant Surgeon; on June 28th, 1853, he became full Surgeon and Lecturer on Surgery on the resignation of Joseph Henry Green (qv); and in 1865 was called upon to resign on attaining the age of 60. The age rule was a new one; Solly pleaded that it was not retrospective, and was allowed to retain office until he had completed his term of twenty years as full Surgeon, but he resigned in January, 1871, on account of ill health.

At the Royal College of Surgeons he was a Member of the Council from 1856-1872, and was twice a Vice-President. He was elected a Member of the Court of Examiners in 1867 and was Arris and Gale Lecturer in 1863, when he delivered six lectures on "The Brain and Spinal Cord, and some other Diseases". He was President of the Royal Medico-Chirurgical Society in 1867-1868, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1836 following upon his work on the brain.

He married on May 22nd, 1834, Jane, daughter of the Rev Joseph Barrett, and by her had seven sons and four daughters. He died suddenly at 6 Savile Row on Sept 24th, 1871, and was buried at Chislehurst.

Solly was a skilful operator, a florid lecturer, and a good clinical teacher. His opinion was specially sought in cases of injuries to the head and in diseases of the joints. He had a taste for art, and his water-colour sketches were exhibited more than once at the Royal Academy. He made his own lecture illustrations, many of which were purchased by the Medical School of St Thomas's Hospital in 1841. The Solly Prize and Medal was established in his memory in 1871, and it was made an essential feature of the Reports for the Prize that they should be illustrated. After his death a marble bust was presented to the Hospital.


The Human Brain, its Configuration, Structure, Development and Physiology, illustrated by References to the Nervous System in the Lower Orders of Animals, l2mo, London, 1836. It is dedicated to Benjamin Travers and is illustrated with twelve well-executed lithographic plates. In the 2nd ed, 1847, the plates are replaced by figures in the text.
Surgical Experiences, 8vo, London, 1865.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Dict Nat Biog, sub nomine et auct ibi cit. H B Robinson's "St. Thomas's Hospital Surgeons" in St Thomas's Hosp Rep, 1899, xxviii, 445].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England