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Biographical entry Cunningham, John Francis (1875 - 1932)

OBE 1919; MRCS 8 February 1900; FRCS 14 December 1905; LRCP 1900.

25 September 1875
Kobe, Japan
13 July 1932
Ophthalmic surgeon


Born at Kobe, Japan on 25 September 1875, the elder son of John Kirkaldy Cunningham, a merchant, and Florence Heaslop, his wife. His father retired from business and settled at Axminster in 1887, and sent his son to Sherborne School. He entered at Michaelmas term 1889 and left in 1894, having been captain of the school XV. He proceeded at once to St Thomas's Hospital and became known as a distinguished athlete, winning the mile in three successive years and playing football both for the hospital and the united hospitals. He filled the office of house surgeon, ophthalmic house surgeon, and the newly created post of ophthalmic-registrar. He also served as clinical assistant at the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital, and was house physician at Bethlem Royal Hospital. He acted for a time as demonstrator of physiology in St Thomas's Hospital Medical School.

In 1910 he joined the staff of the Central London Ophthalmic Hospital, and in 1920 he was appointed consulting surgeon to St Charles's Hospital, formerly the Marylebone Infirmary. During the first world war CunningĀ¬ham, with the rank of major, RAMC(T), served in France 1915-18, where he had remarkable success in the treatment of trachoma amongst many thousands of Egyptians and Chinese. For his services he was decorated OBE on 3 June 1919. He married on 17 June 1909 Phyllis Lovell, daughter of Mr Justice Clarence of the supreme court of Ceylon. She survived him with two sons and three daughters. Cunningham was a man of singularly lovable nature, which won for him the affection of all with whom he was brought in contact. He never spared himself, doing everything to the best of his ability, thinking only of the work and never of any reward. He was interested to the end of his life in the success of the Sherborne Old Boys Society. He acted for many years as its secretary, and brought it to the acme of success. He died in St Thomas's Hospital on 13 July 1932, and was buried in the cemetery at Sherborne.


Contagious diseases of the conjunctiva in wartime, with J Wharton. Trans Ophthal Soc UK 1918, 38, 18.
Analysis of a series of cases of interstitial keratitis. Ibid. 1922, 42, 44.
The eye and emergencies of general practice, in Sargent and Russell's Emergencies of general practice. London, 1910.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 15 July 1932, p 8e; Brit Med J 1932, 2, 275; information given by Mrs Cunningham].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England