Lives of the fellows

Wilson Fox

b.2 November 1831 d.3 May 1887
BA Lond(1850) MB(1854) MD(1855) FRCP(1866) FRS

Wilson Fox’s father was a Quaker manufacturer at Wellington in Somerset. He himself was sent to Bruce Castle, Tottenham, for his schooling and then, in 1847, to University College, London, where he graduated as B.A. in 1850. In the same year he entered the College’s Faculty of Medicine, and in 1854 emerged as an M.B. after winning the Fellowes gold medal in the previous year. Having taken the degree of M.D. in 1855, he made a lengthy visit to the medical schools of Edinburgh, Paris, Vienna and Berlin. At Berlin, under Virchow, he concentrated his studies on anatomical investigation. Some of his observations were afterwards published as Contributions to the Pathology of the Glandular Structures of the Stomach (1858). In 1859 he obtained the post of physician to the Royal Staffordshire Infirmary and started a successful practice at Newcastle-under-Lyme. After two years, he moved to London to become, with Virchow’s backing, professor of pathological anatomy at his old College and assistant physician to University College Hospital. He was promoted to physician in 1867 and, at the same time, exchanged his chair for the Holme professorship of clinical medicine and was created a fellow of University College. He was a Censor of the Royal College of Physicians in 1884, and Physician-Extraordinary to the Queen from 1870 until his death.

As well as conducting a wide consulting practice, Wilson Fox made a name for himself at University College both for his researches and for his teaching. In 1873 he published Diseases of the Stomach based on articles for Reynolds’ System of Medicine. But it was for his work on the lungs, and particularly on phthisis, that he was best known. Fox, almost alone among English pathologists of his day, held tuberculosis to be a distinct process and not an ordinary chronic inflammation. The publication of Koch’s researches confirmed this opinion, but necessitated a revision of Fox’s views on the aetiology of the disease. For this reason, he found it essential to postpone the appearance of his own work on the lungs, on which he had laboured for many years. It was, however, published posthumously, with Coupland as editor, under the title of A Treatise on Diseases of the Lungs and Pleura (1891), as was his Atlas of the Pathological Anatomy of the Lungs (1888). As a teacher, he was conspicuous for his enthusiasm and thoroughness, and for a quiet charm which impressed itself on the memory of Sir William Osier among his other pupils. But for dull or idle students he exhibited not patience but only sarcastic wit. He died at Preston, leaving three sons and three daughters by his first wife. His second wife, whom he married in 1874, was Evelyn, daughter of Sir Baldwin W. Walker, Bart., and widow of Captain H. T. Burgoyne.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1887; B.M.J., 1887; Hale Bellot, 351; D.N.B., xx, 140]

(Volume IV, page 151)

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