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Biographical entry Startin, James (1806 - 1872)

MRCS Feb 15th 1828; FRCS July 6th 1852; LSA 1827.

22 December 1872
General surgeon


Born at Moseley, the eldest son of James Startin, merchant and banker, of Birmingham. He went to the Free Grammar School at Moseley and was then apprenticed to Messrs Whitby and Chawner, of Atherstone, the latter of whom fitted up a dissecting-room and laboratory for his pupils, and in this laboratory Startin is said to have found out a new and cheap commercial process for stiffening felt hats. He was next dresser to Joseph Hodgson (qv) at the Birmingham Hospital, and then entered St Bartholomew's Hospital with a special introduction to Abernethy. For a time, in succession to Richard Partridge, he dissected preparations for Abernethy's lectures, and formed a lasting friendship with Richard Owen, Andrew Melville McWhinnie, and other fellow-students.

After two sessions he went as unqualified assistant to Adams, of Walsall, in charge of a large colliery practice. Calculus was very prevalent, and Startin gained experience in lithotomy. After a year he returned to St Bartholomew's Hospital as a pupil under J Painter Vincent (qv), and attended Clutterbuck's classes in medicine, Sir Charles Bell's in surgery, and Quain's in medicine.

Having qualified, he became assistant to Davis, of Coleshill, Warwickshire, and then Resident Surgeon to the Birmingham General Hospital, his friend Richard Owen being one of the unsuccessful competitors. After two years he started private practice at Warwick, married a lady with shares in a local bank, and also invested money of his own. The bank ceased payment, and the Startins were involved in unlimited liabilities. Hence for two to three years he lived in France, meanwhile studying skin diseases at the Hôpital Saint-Louis and at Montpellier. He also served as Medical Officer in the French Army occupying Algeria.

At the end of 1841 he had returned to London and had interested Gurney, the Quaker banker, in a project for an infirmary for skin diseases, and under the patronage of the Dukes of Sussex and of Cambridge the infirmary was opened at London Wall. It was later transferred to Blackfriars.

Startin became a noted skin specialist, directing his attention mainly to success without reference to dermatological science, to which he added nothing. His outpatient room at Blackfriars was crowded, and similarly his consulting-room at 3 Savile Row was filled with private cases, to whom he gave long and complex prescriptions so that neither he nor anyone else knew which ingredient was effective.

In general manner he was simple and affable, in social life genial and kindhearted. He entertained largely at his country house at Woodford, and was a keen sportsman. About 1867 he began to suffer from stone in the bladder, for which Sir Henry Thompson at first used a lithotrite with success, but after the formation of abscesses in the scrotum and prostate, performed lithotomy. In 1872 an abscess in the loin formed, which was laid open and another calculus removed from the pelvis of the kidney. He died on Dec 22nd 1872, and was buried in Brompton Cemetery.


Startin published a Pharmacopoeia of the Skin Hospital with an Address, which went through three editions.
"A Course of Twenty-six Lectures on Chronic Diseases of the Skin."- London Med Times, 1845-6, xiii, xiv.
He was largely instrumental in introducing the use of glycerin - see "Application and Discovery of the Therapeutic Uses of Glycerine", Lond Med Times, 1850, I, 27, as also the use of an elastic spiral bandage for varicose veins - "On the Advantages of an Elastic Convoluted Spiral Bandage in Varicose Veins and Ulcers of the Legs", Ibid, 1851, I, 285.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England