Lives of the fellows

Thomas (Sir) Stevenson

b.14 April 1838 d.27 July 1908
MB Lond(1866) MD MRCS FRCP(1871)

Thomas Stevenson was born at Rainton, Yorkshire, the second son of Peter Stevenson, a pioneer of scientific farming, and his wife Hannah, daughter of Robert Williamson, banker and coach-maker, of Ripon. As a boy he studied chemistry and agriculture and worked on his father’s farm. In 1857 he was apprenticed to a Bradford doctor and two years later he entered Guy’s Hospital. After passing his examinations with high distinction, he proceeded to his M.B. degree in 1866 and started to practise in Bradford. An absorbing interest in chemistry remained with him, however, and he was soon back at Guy’s, where he became successively demonstrator of practical chemistry (1864-70), lecturer on chemistry (1870-98) and lecturer on forensic medicine (1878-1908). He was employed by the Home Office as an analyst from 1872 to 1881, when he was appointed senior scientific analyst. He performed the same duties for Surrey and Bedfordshire and for the boroughs of St. Pancras and Shoreditch; for St. Pancras he was also medical officer of health. He held office as president of the Society of Medical Officers of Health, the Society of Public Analysts and the Institute of Chemistry.

As an expert witness, Stevenson, who was knighted in 1904, figured in many celebrated murder cases in which poisoning was an alleged factor, including the Maybrick, Lamson, Hickman, Neil Cream, Chapman and Edward Bell trials; his investigations showed outstanding skill and patience, and his evidence was scrupulous, succinct, calm and lucid. His edition — the third — of Swaine Taylor’s Principles and Practice of Medical Jurisprudence (1883) became a standard textbook throughout the world. In private life he was a devout churchman, a student of the Bible, a supporter of medical missions, and an advocate of higher education for women. He married in 1867 Agnes, daughter of George Maberly, solicitor, of London, and had two sons and five daughters.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1908; B.M.J., 1908; D.N.B., 2nd Suppl., iii, 414]

(Volume IV, page 196)

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