Grainger, Richard Dugard (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

GRAINGER, RICHARD DUGARD (1801–1865), anatomist and physiologist, younger son of Edward Grainger, surgeon, was born in Birmingham in 1801. He entered the military academy at Woolwich as a cadet, but afterwards qualified as a surgeon, and joined his brother, Edward Grainger [q. v.], whose failing health left the younger brother in possession of a flourishing medical school in Webb Street, Borough, when little more than twenty-two years of age. He took his brother's place as lecturer on anatomy, and maintained the fame of his school for many years, securing the co-operation of numerous able teachers in other subjects. The hospital medical schools gradually gained upon the private teachers; but in 1842 the St. Thomas's Hospital school was glad to appoint Grainger as lecturer on general anatomy and physiology, and the Webb Street school was closed. For many years Grainger lectured with success at St. Thomas's, Dr. Brinton being latterly associated with him. On his complete retirement in 1860, Grainger's pupils and friends subscribed 500l. as a testimonial to him. He declined to accept it, and a Grainger testimonial prize was founded at St. Thomas's with the money, for the best physiological essay. His zeal, conscientiousness, and success as a teacher were very marked. Grainger gave great attention to public health when it was little studied. On the appointment of the children's hospital commission in 1841, he was selected as one of the inspectors. In 1849 he was appointed an inspector under the board of health to inquire into the origin and spread of cholera, and furnished a valuable report. In 1853 he was made an inspector under the Burials Act, and held this office till his death. In 1862 he was nominated one of the commissioners on a second children's employment commission. During his later years he took great interest in the condition of young women employed in milliners' and dressmakers' establishments, and formed a society for their protection. He suffered from renal disease (albuminuria) for several years before his death, which took place on 1 Feb. 1865. He left a widow, but no children. A portrait of him was engraved by Lupton from a picture by Wageman. Grainger's ‘Elements of General Anatomy,’ published in 1829, was one of the earliest attempts to give a lucid view of human physiology, connected with the minute structure of parts as ascertained by the microscope. In 1837 he published ‘Observations on the Structure and Functions of the Spinal Cord,’ in which he supported Dr. Marshall Hall's views on reflex action, and based them on anatomical studies of his own on the course of nerve fibres in the nervous centres; he also developed a theory of the functions of the sympathetic nervous system, which was in some points an advance on any previously brought forward. Soon after this he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1845 he was elected a member of the council of the Royal College of Surgeons, and in 1848 delivered the Hunterian oration on ‘the cultivation of organic science’ before the college; this address was notable for its assertion of the limitations of consciousness in regard to vital actions, and of the fact that physical and chemical forces are at the bottom of all vital action. His only other writings are some lectures on health and official reports.

In person Grainger was above the middle height, with a high forehead, quick, intelligent eyes, and resolute chin. He was courteous and retiring, but animated on occasion. His lectures were slowly and emphatically delivered, but he lacked the brilliancy of his brother. He was liberal of his money and in his views, and much beloved by pupils and friends. He took a prominent part in founding the Christian Medical Association in 1854.

[Medical Times, 11 Feb. 1865, i. 157 (by Sir J. Risdon Bennett); Lancet, 18 Feb. 1865, p. 190; Feltoe's Memorials of J. F. South, pp. 112, 113.]

G. T. B.