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Biographical entry Streatfield, John Fremlyn (1828 - 1886)

MRCS June 11th 1852; FRCS June 13th 1862.

14 October 1828
18 March 1886
Ophthalmic surgeon


Born on Oct 14th, 1828, the son of the Rev Thomas Streatfield (1777-1848), of Chart's Edge, Westerham, historian of the County of Kent, whose collection of biographical and topographical material was embodied in Hasted's History of Kent, 1886. His mother, Clare, daughter of Thomas Harvey, of Cowden, was living in her ninety-third year at the time of her son's death.

Streatfield, owing to delicate health, was educated at home until he was 15 years of age, and then went to the King's School, Canterbury, and later to a school at Tunbridge Wells. He then entered the London Hospital as a pupil of Curling, and after qualifying served during the Crimean War on the Surgical Staff of the British Civil Hospital at Smyrna.

On his return to England he began the study of ophthalmology, and was elected Assistant Ophthalmic Surgeon to the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital in 1856 in succession to Gilbert Macmurdo (qv). The election was keenly contested, Streatfield receiving 214 votes, J W Hulke (qv) 148, Walter Tyrrell 93, and J S Gamgee 3. He became full Surgeon in 1867 and held office until his death in 1886. He was appointed Assistant Ophthalmic Surgeon at University College Hospital in 1862, and succeeded to the office of full Surgeon and Professor of Clinical Ophthalmic Surgery on the retirement of T Wharton Jones (qv). These posts he had to resign under a self-denying ordinance when he became full Surgeon at the Moorfields Eye Hospital.

Streatfield exhibited great dexterity in the performance of ophthalmic operations - indeed, he was so deft an operator that one of his colleagues said jokingly that he would not be surprised to find Streatfield removing a cataract whilst at the same time he balanced a feather on his nose. In the corneal section for iridectomy and cataract extraction he always employed Sichel's knife, his incision in cataract operations corresponding with the corneal margin. He paid special attention to the division of adhesions of the iris, corelysis, for which he also tried electrical application, without result. He was the editor of the Ophthalmic Hospital Reports from 1857, when the first volume appeared, until April, 1861, when a new series commenced, and in part iii of these reports he gave a description of his operation of grooving the fibrocartilage of the eyelid for the relief of entropion. Volumes ii-xvi are printed on a yellowish paper as a relief to the eyes when reading them. The suggestion of using a tinted paper seems to have come from Charles Babbage (1792-1871), the mathematician. He also contributed to Erichsen's Surgery, Quain's Dictionary of Medicine, and "Notelets" to the Lancet.

He was one of the founders, and the first Treasurer, of the Ophthalmic Society of Great Britain, and at one of the meetings amused the Fellows by demonstrating steps of cataract extraction on a huge dummy apparatus, which he suggested as useful for teaching.

He practised at 15 Upper Brook Street, and was in active operative practice when he caught a chill on a country journey to a patient, and died of pneumonia on March 18th, 1886.

Under a brusque exterior he had a keen love of wit and humour; he was a staunch churchman and gave away annually a tenth of his income. He appeared little at Medical Societies, but spent his spare time with his friends in Kent, admiring and sketching admirably Kentish scenery, noting customs and characteristics in preparation for a book on the county. He was a devoted member of the Kent Archaeological Society, and a collector of Cantiana of every kind.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Treacher Collins's History and Traditions of the Moorfields Eye Hospital, 1929, 106].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England