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Biographical entry Joly, John Swift (1876 - 1943)

MRCS and FRCS 13 June 1907; MB BCh BAO Dublin 1902; MD 1902; LM Rotunda 1902.

3 June 1876
14 December 1943
General surgeon


Born at Athlone, 3 June 1876, youngest child of the three sons and two daughters of the Rev John Swift Joly, Rector of the parish, and Elizabeth, his wife, daughter of the Rev Nathaniel Slator. The Rev J S Joly was the second son, but the only one to marry and have issue, of Charles Joseph Joly of Clonmoyle, Co Westmeath, by his wife Katharine, daughter of John Swift of Lynn, Co. Westmeath. John Swift's name is not in the Swift pedigree in Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland (1904 edition), but he was traditionally believed to be a collateral descendant of Jonathan Swift, the great Dean of St Patrick's. There were many marriages of cousins in the Swift family and he may thus have been descended from the Dean's uncle Godwin Swift. The Dean was unmarried and his only sister, Jane Fenton, left no children. Charles Joseph Joly, the surgeon's grandfather, was a son of Jean Jasper Joly, a French Roman Catholic who settled on the Duke of Leinster's estate at Carton, Co Kildare, in the middle of the eighteenth century and became a protestant and a freemason.

Joly was educated at Dublin High School and at Trinity College, Dublin, where he became senior moderator, ie top of the first class in his final examination, in experimental science in 1898. He was Stewart medical scholar in chemistry and physics, botany and zoology in 1898, and in anatomy and "the institutes of medicine" (physiology) in 1900. In 1902, the year in which he graduated in medicine, surgery, and obstetrics, he won the Fitzpatrick memorial scholarship. He served as demonstrator of anatomy at TCD, and later as house surgeon at Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital. In 1904 he won the University surgical travelling scholarship, with which he went to Vienna and to Kocher's clinic at Bern. His elder brother Charles Jasper Joly (1864-1906), afterwards Astronomer Royal of Ireland and FRS (for whom see DNB), and his second-cousin John Joly (1857-1933), afterwards professor of geology at Dublin and FRS (for whom see Royal Society, Obituary notices of Fellows, 1932-35, 1, 259-286, with portrait), were both Fellows of Trinity during his years as an undergraduate. He originally entered the school of engineering, but changed to the school of physics; under the influence of his brother and cousin he cultivated deeply his natural scientific ability.

Deciding to practise in London in his chosen specialty of urology, he took appointments as house surgeon at the Lock Hospital and at St Peter's Hospital for Stone, Covent Garden, and gained the English Fellowship in 1907, though not previously a Member of the College. At St Peter's he succeeded E Hurry Fenwick on the staff, and had as his senior colleagues Sir Peter J Freyer, like himself an Anglo-Irishman, F Swinford Edwards, John G Pardoe, and Sir John Thomson Walker, whom he ultimately succeeded as senior surgeon. In his earlier days there was considerable controversy about the merits of prostatectomy, and Joly is reputed to have supplied much of the ammunition with which Thomson Walker defended this operation. Joly also became consulting urologist to St James's Infirmary. He was appointed surgeon to out-patients at the Lock Hospital in 1920 after his return from war service. During the first world war he was commissioned captain, RAMC, on 23 July 1917 and promoted acting major on 8 April 1918. He served with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force and at the 47th Stationary Hospital at Gaza in Palestine. He was also appointed operative surgeon at the Tooting Military Hospital, and later civil consulting urologist to the Royal Navy.

Joly took an active part in professional societies, was president of the section of urology at the Royal Society of Medicine 1928-29, an honorary corresponding member of the American Urological Association, English secretary of the International Society of Urology, and British delegate to the Société internationale d'Urologie. He was also a member of the Association française d'Urologie and of the Società italiana di Urologia. From 1933 till his death he was honorary treasurer of the Fellowship of Medicine and Postgraduate Medical Association. His book on Stone and calculous disease of the urinary organs, published in 1929, became at once a standard classic and the authoritative reference book. He was writing a book on Diseases of the Kidney when he died. Joly married on 19 April 1911 Mary Tottenham, daughter of S A Ossory Fitzpatrick of Dublin, who survived him with one son, his namesake; John Swift Joly the younger was admitted FRCS in 1941, and was serving as a surgeon-lieutenant, RNVR, at the time of his father's death. Joly died at his house, 80 Harley Street, on 14 December 1943, aged 66. Mrs Joly died suddenly in London on 14 January 1946.

Joly was a sound surgeon and an inspiring teacher, who retained through life the wide scientific outlook of his early training. He was a careful, slow operator. He had a great talent for inventing and improving instruments; his cystoscope and urethroscope were very widely used, his bladder-retractor was also well known. Quiet and reserved, but not without wit, he was a sociable member of the Savage Club and an active freemason and had served as master of the Lodge of Trinity Dublin men in London. As a young man he was a noted cross-country runner and a keen fisherman. He was an expert photographer and fond also of golf, but his favourite pastime in his last ten years was mountaineering in the Swiss Alps with his wife and their only son; he climbed the Dent Blanche, 14,300 feet, when aged 61. His collection of his own Alpine photographs was very remarkable.

Operative treatment of vesical diverticula. Lancet, 1923, 2, 445. The Lancet gave a leading article in the same issue to the discussion of this paper.
Stone and calculous disease of the urinary organs. London, Heinemann, 1929. 68 pages.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 17 December 1943, p 7d; Lancet, 1944, 1, 35, with portrait; Brit med J 1944, 1, 26, eulogy by Cuthbert Dukes, OBE, MD, and p 133, note by son J S Joly, FRCS; Postgrad med J 1944, 20, 1; information given by Mrs Joly and by Erskine E West, of Dublin].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England