Lives of the fellows

George (Sir) Johnson

b.29 November 1818 d.3 June 1896
MD Lond FRCP(1850) FRS

George Johnson was born at Goudhurst in Kent, the eldest son of George Johnson, yeoman, and Mercy, daughter of William Corke, timber merchant, of Edenbridge. He was educated at his local grammar school and then apprenticed to an uncle practising at Cranbrook. He was a medical student at King’s College, London, where he won a Warneford prize in 1842 and passed his examinations with high honours, graduating in 1843. He served his house appointments at King’s College Hospital and was its first resident medical tutor. He became assistant physician there in 1847 and physician in 1856 and was appointed in turn to the chairs of materia medica (1857-63), medicine (1863-76), and clinical medicine (1876-86). He was made consulting physician to the Royal College of Music in 1883. He was a Censor and in 1887 Vice-President of the Royal College of Physicians, and delivered the Goulstonian Lectures (1852), the Materia Medica Lectures (1853), the Lumleian Lectures (1877) and the Harveian Oration (1882). The Queen appointed him a Physician-Extraordinary in 1889 and he received a knighthood three years later. Johnson was known as an authority on kidney diseases and on cholera, and among his written works were Diseases of the Kidney (1852), Epidemic Diarrhoea and Cholera (1855), and Lectures on Bright's Disease (1873). Indeed, his commonest nicknames were "Kidney Johnson" and "Castor Oil Johnson" — the latter after his treatment of cholera cases. Johnson was one of the first to make himself familiar with the laryngoscope and the ophthalmoscope. He was a man of outspoken if not intolerant viewpoint—a trait which was partly responsible, perhaps, for his quarrel with Gull in 1876, on a matter of medical etiquette, in which the Royal College of Physicians adjudicated (in Johnson’s favour). He was careful, however, to avoid controversy in his lectures to students, and in hospital affairs his judgment was calm and conciliatory. He married in 1850, Charlotte Elizabeth, daughter of Lieutenant William White of Addington, Surrey, and had five children. He died at his Savile Row house in London.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1896; B.M.J., 1896; Lyle, 205; D.N.B., 1st Suppl., iii, 44]

(Volume IV, page 60)

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