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Biographical entry Pepper, Augustus Joseph (1849 - 1935)

MRCS 19 May 1875; FRCS 8 June 1876; MB BS London 1876; MS 1877.

7 November 1849
Barrowden, Rutlandshire
18 December 1935
Sidcup, Kent
General surgeon


Born 7 November 1849 at Barrowden, Rutlandshire, the second son; of Anthony Sewell Pepper, butcher, and Rachel Swann, his wife. He was educated at Barrowden and at Billesdon School, Leicestershire. He then entered University College, London with a scholarship, and in the medical faculty won the Atkinson-Morley surgical scholarship, the Filliter exhibition in pathology, and the Bruce medal in surgery and pathology. At the University of London he was equally successful: in 1873 he gained the exhibition of £40 and gold medal value £5 in anatomy, the gold medal in physiology and histology, the gold medals in chemistry and materia medica at the first MD and at the final MB in 1876 the gold medals in medicine, forensic medicine, and obstetric medicine. He served as house physician, obstetric assistant, and surgical registrar at University College Hospital, and as demonstrator of anatomy under G Viner Ellis, who remained his friend for life, in the medical school. He was also teacher of practical surgery. He was appointed in 1880 an assistant surgeon supplementary to the staff at St Mary's Hospital, where he was lecturer on histology and medical tutor 1880-82. He was in charge of out-patients 1882-97, surgeon 1897-1910, and consulting surgeon from 1910 until his death. He lectured on clinical surgery jointly with Herbert Page 1897-1900, with A Quarry Silcock 1900-05, and with J E Lane 1905-06.

Pepper was an accomplished anatomist, a remarkably good operator, a precise pathologist, and a first-rate teacher. These qualities led him almost by accident to become one of the leading exponents of forensic medicine, on the gross pathological side as opposed to toxicology. He was at first called in by the coroner, Dr Danford Thomas, to make autopsies and give evidence at the inquests which it was Thomas's duty to conduct. Pepper was so careful and clear a witness that his fame spread, and he was summoned by the Home Office to unravel the more difficult cases often associated with crime and he was thus associated with the trials of Crippen and the Moat Farm murderer and was a witness in the Druce case. It may be noted that as early as 1882 Pepper gave a postgraduate course at St Mary's Hospital on practical legal medicine.

Pepper is described as a short man of very vivid personality. When confronted with a difficult case he at once stripped the history of all extraneous matter and went straight to the point, making an exact diagnosis, which was nearly always correct. His clear mode of thinking and his logical mind made him a brilliant, popular, and impressive clinical teacher and lecturer. He was at his best in the operating theatre, where his exact knowledge of anatomy caused him to be perfectly at home even in the most difficult operations, whilst his courage and resource in sudden emergencies were outstanding features. He was somewhat retiring in private life; he was a fine whist player and an expert horticulturist. Sir Leander Starr Jameson of the "Jameson raid" in South Africa, who had been a fellow student, remained throughout life an intimate friend. He died on 18 December 1935 at Bracknell, Foots Cray Lane, Sidcup, Kent, survived by his wife, Rachel Lockley, whom he married on 7 March. 1898. There were no children.

Elements of surgical pathology. London, 1883; 4th edition, 1894; German translation, Leipzig, 1887.
Perforating ulcer of the foot in a patient affected with remarkable degenerative changes in the spinal cord and nerves, with A Quarry Silcock. Trans Path Soc Lond 1884 85, 36, 63.
Lectures on practical legal medicine. Lancet, 1887, 2, 399; 555; 903.
Excision of the thyroid for malignant disease; recovery. Ibid. 1891, 1, 770.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 19 December 1935, p 14c; Lancet, 1935, 2, 1486, with portrait; Brit med J 1935, 2, 1285; St Mary's Hosp Gaz 1936, 42, 8, by Sir William Willcox, KCIE, CB; information given by Mrs Pepper].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England