Lives of the fellows

Thomas (Sir) Watson

b.1792 d.11 December 1882
AB Cantab(1815) AM(1818) MD(1825) FRCP(1826) BART

Sir Thomas Watson, Bart., M.D., LL.D., D.C.L., is descended from a family long settled in Northumberland, but was born in 1792 at Kentisbeare, a village near Honiton, in Devonshire, where his father, Mr. Joseph Watson, was then temporarily residing. He received his early education at the grammar school of Bury St. Edmund’s, whence he was transferred to St. John’s college, Cambridge, of which house his uncle, ex parte maternâ, the Rev. Thomas Catton, was then a fellow. He graduated A.B. 1815, and was tenth wrangler; was elected a fellow of St. John’s 1816; proceeded A.M. 1818; and in the following year commenced the study of medicine at St. Bartholomew’s hospital. He passed the session of 1821-2 at Edinburgh; had a licence ad practicandum from Cambridge in 1822; was proctor of the university in 1823; and graduated M.D. in 1825.

He was admitted an Inceptor-Candidate of the College of Physicians 22nd December, 1824, a Candidate 14th July, 1825, and a Fellow 30th September, 1826. He was Gulstonian lecturer in 1827; Censor 1828, 1837, 1838; Lumleian lecturer 1830, 1831; Lecturer on Materia Medica at the College in 1833, 1834 and 1835, and Consiliarius in 1836, 1840, 1841, 1842, 1844, 1845, 1846, 1850, 1851, 1852, 1854, 1855, 1856, 1861, 1868. Sir Thomas Watson was elected to the important office of Representative of the College in the General Council of Medical Education and Registration on the original constitution of that body in 1858; but he resigned his seat, to the regret of the fellows of the College, in 1860. Finally, he was elected President of the College in 1862, and continued in that office for five years.

Sir Thomas Watson was appointed physician to the Middlesex hospital 24th May, 1827, and in the arrangements of the university of London, now University college, as a school of medicine, was nominated to the chair of clinical medicine. He held that appointment for one year only, when his services were transferred to King’s college. He was chosen professor of forensic medicine, and held that office until called upon by the council of King’s college in 1836, to accept of the more important chair of the principles and practice of medicine. His lectures in that capacity at once established his reputation, and their publication in the London Medical Gazette, and subsequently in two volumes,(1) sufficed to place him in the first rank of his profession.

The retirement of Dr. Chambers about 1848 left Sir Thomas Watson the acknowledged head of the medical profession in this country. He resigned his chair at King’s college in 1840, and his office to the Middlesex hospital in 1843. He was appointed physician extraordinary to the Queen in 1859, and as such, in conjunction with Sir William Jenner and Sir Henry Holland, was called into medical attendance on the prince Consort in his last illness. He was created a baronet in 1866, and was appointed physician in ordinary to the queen in 1870.

Sir Thomas Watson survives, the Nestor of English physicians; esteemed by the whole medical profession, and beloved by those of that body who have known him the best, the members of the Royal College of Physicians, with which institution he has been so long, so intimately, and so honourably associated. He is an honorary doctor of laws of Cambridge; an honorary fellow of St. John’s college in that university; an honorary doctor of civil law of Oxford; and an honorary fellow of the King and Queen’s college of Physicians of Ireland. His portrait, by Richmond, is at the College. It was painted at the request of a number of the fellows, who were desirous of thus testifying their affection for Sir Thomas Watson; and was by them presented to the College.

William Munk

[(1) Few medical works have been more successful than this. It has passed through five large editions, and has enjoyed a greater popularity with students and practitioners than any similar book since the First Lines of Dr. Cullen.]

(Volume III, page 291)

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