Lives of the fellows

Samuel Osborne Habershon

b.1825 d.21 August 1889
MD Lond(1851) MRCS LSA FRCP(1856)

Samuel Habershon was born at Rotherham in Yorkshire, the son of an ironfounder, and educated at Brampton near Watt and at Ongar in Essex. He began his medical career, at the early age of fifteen, as the pupil of a doctor in the City. At seventeen he became a student at Guy’s Hospital, where he remained, in various capacities, for the next thirty-eight years. He was a brilliant student, gaining gold medals, exhibitions and scholarships in his first and second M.B. examinations, and he had already been appointed demonstrator of anatomy and tutor when he took his degree of M.D. in 1851. He then lectured on comparative anatomy and pathology, and, after becoming assistant physician in 1854, held the chair of materia medica from 1856 to 1873 and that of medicine from 1873 to 1877. He was given charge of the skin department in 1864 and made physician in 1866. His career at Guy’s Hospital came to an end in 1880 as the result of an acute controversy between the lay governors and the medical and surgical staff on matters of nursing. The governors held to their opinion, and Habershon and the senior surgeon were at first asked to resign and then, after the demand had been withdrawn, did so of their own accord.

It was as a specialist on abdominal diseases that Habershon was generally known, and his book on Diseases of the Abdomen (1857) reached a fourth edition in 1888. He became a Censor and, eventually, in 1887 Vice-President of the Royal College of Physicians, having given the Lumleian Lectures in 1876 and the Harveian Oration in 1883. He was a deeply religious man. He was superintendent of the Darby Street Ragged School and one of the founders of the Christian Medical Association, holding religious services for the students of Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Hospitals in his house on Sunday afternoons. Superficially, he was reserved in character, but his sincerity was obvious to all. In the words of J. F. Goodhart, Habershon was " a clinical physician of the first order". He was survived by a son and three daughters.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1889; B.M.J., 1889; Wilks and Bettany, 274; D.N.B., xxiii, 413]

(Volume IV, page 84)

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