Lives of the fellows

Edward Cator Seaton

b.1815 d.21 January 1880
MD Edin FRCP(1872)

Edward Cator Seaton was born at Rochester, the son of a retired naval surgeon in practice there, and received his medical training at Edinburgh University, graduating in 1837. After a short visit to Paris, he practised at Rochester for a time, holding the appointment of surgeon to the North Aylesford Union. His next move, in 1841, was to Chelsea, where he was surgeon to the Dispensary and played an active part in founding both the Western Medical Society and the Epidemiological Society. Through his connection with the latter he came to enter the field of public health which, at the expense of his promising practice, was to be his life’s work. He was honorary secretary and prime mover of the Society’s committee which presented a report to Parliament on Smallpox and Vaccination that led, in 1853, to the passing of the Compulsory Vaccination Act. Seaton also contributed articles on the subject to the Society’s Transactions. His appointment as first vaccination inspector under the General Board of Health followed in 1858, and his reports produced an amendment to the new Act. Between 1865 and 1871, he acted first as superintending inspector and then as director of the National Vaccine Establishment. His writings on vaccination continued with an article in Reynold’s System of Medicine in 1867, his Handbook of Vaccination in 1868, his Report on Animal Vaccination in 1869, and one on the smallpox epidemic of 1871-72.

In 1871, on the formation of the Local Government Board, Seaton became its senior assistant medical officer under John Simon. In this capacity, he represented the Government at the International Sanitary Conference in Vienna in 1874. Two years later he succeeded Simon as medical officer to the Board. For the remainder of his life he was occupied mainly with administration, including the revision of over 3,000 public contracts — work well suited to the precise judgment and organising ability which had made him a painstaking and indefatigable pioneer in his field. He was the father of Edward Cox Seaton, F.R.C.P., and had four sons and four daughters in all. He at died Notting Hill, London.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1880; B.M.J., 1880; D.N.B., li, 165]

(Volume IV, page 206)

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