Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Wood, John (1825 - 1891)

MRCS July 30th 1849; FRCS May 11th 1854; LSA 1849; FRS 1871.

12 October 1825
29 December 1891
General surgeon


Born on Oct 12th, 1825, the youngest child of John and Sarah Wood. His father, who was a wool stapler at Bradford, Yorkshire, could only afford him a very simple education at the school of E Capon. He was articled to a solicitor, but disliking the law, and finding that his studies were interrupted by a severe injury to his hip which resulted in permanent shortening and deformity, he went as dispenser to Edward Casson, then Senior Surgeon to the Bradford Infirmary Here he learnt minor surgery and was taught a modicum of Latin.

He entered the medical department of King's College, London, in 1846, where his student career was marked by extraordinary and rapid success, for he gained four College Scholarships and two Gold Medals. He passed the first MB at the University of London in 1848, being placed second in the honours list and winning the Gold Medal in Anatomy and Physiology. He did not pursue the course and never graduated.

Wood was appointed House Surgeon at King's College Hospital in 1850, and became Demonstrator of Anatomy to Richard Partridge (qv) in 1851. From this time until 1870 he almost lived in the dissecting-rooms at King's College, although he was appointed Assistant Surgeon to the Hospital in 1856. When he succeeded to the office of full Surgeon to the Hospital he resigned the Demonstratorship, and in 1871 he was offered and accepted the Chair of Professor of Surgery in King's College. In 1877 he was appointed Lecturer on Clinical Surgery, his colleague being Joseph Lister (qv), and in 1889 he was nominated Emeritus Professor of Clinical Surgery.

At the Royal College of Surgeons of England Wood won the Jacksonian Prize in 1861 with an essay on "The Best Method of effecting the Radical Cure of Inguinal Hernia, explaining the Principle of the Operation adopted". He was an Examiner in Anatomy 1875-1879, a Member of the Court of Examiners 1879-1889, of the Dental Board 1883-1888, a Member of Council 1879-1887. As Hunterian Professor of Surgery and Pathology, 1884-1885, he took "Hernia" as his subject, and as Bradshaw Lecturer in 1885 the subject, "Antiseptics in Surgery". He was a Vice-President in 1885.

He was elected FRS in June, 1871, and in the same year became an Hon Fellow of King's College, London. He acted at various times as an Examiner in the Universities of Cambridge and of London. He was President of the Metropolitan Branch of the British Medical Association, and was an Hon Fellow of the Swedish Medical Society.

John Wood married (1) on Aug 19th, 1858, Mary Anne Ward, who died in childbed the following year ; and (2) on April 5th, 1862, Emma, widow of the Rev J H Knox and daughter of Thomas Ware. There were children by both marriages. He died on Dec 29th, 1891, and was buried in Kemal Green Cemetery.

He appears in Jamyn Brookes's portrait group of the Council, and there is a photograph of him in the Fellows' Album.

Wood ranks as one of the last English surgeons owing their position to that limited knowledge of anatomy as learnt by dissection. This knowledge he turned to practical use by inventing a somewhat complex subcutaneous method of curing hernia, which was displaced by the advance of aseptic surgery. In plastic surgery he was an acknowledged master. His mind was open to advances in pathology and he was able to accept the teaching of his colleague, Lord Lister. In person he bore traces of his origin, short, broad, with a North Country accent, and a marked limp though he never used a stick for support.

On Rupture: Inguinal, Crural, and Umbilical, 8vo, London, 1863.
Lectures on Hernia and its Radical Cure, 8vo, London, 1886.
The Teeth and Associate Parts, 12mo, Edinburgh, 1886.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Dict Nat Biog, sub nomine et auct ibi cit. Additional information kindly given by Sir Frederic G Hallett, JP. Personal knowledge].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England