Roberton, John (DNB00)

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ROBERTON, JOHN (1797–1876), surgeon, born near Hamilton, Lanarkshire, on 20 March 1797, was educated for the medical profession at Glasgow and Edinburgh, and admitted a member of the Royal College of Surgeons at Edinburgh in 1817. He intended to be a ship's surgeon, and was on his way to the West Indies when he was wrecked on the Lancashire coast. While at Liverpool he was induced to take up his residence at Warrington, and subsequently to remove to Manchester. He soon had an extensive general practice, and, on his appointment in 1827 to the office of surgeon to the Manchester Lying-in Hospital, turned his special attention to midwifery and to the physiology and diseases of women and children. He was also a lecturer at the Marsden Street school of medicine. His first publication was ‘Observations on the Mortality and Physical Management of Children,’ Warrington, 1827, 12mo. From 1830 onwards he wrote for the ‘Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal’ a series of papers on the period of female puberty in various countries, which led James Cowles Prichard [q. v.] to alter some of the conclusions which he had arrived at in the earlier editions of his ‘Physical History of Mankind.’ These, along with other kindred papers, are reprinted in Roberton's most important work, ‘Essays and Notes on the Physiology and Diseases of Women and on Practical Midwifery,’ London, 1851, 8vo. He devoted much time to the subject of hospital construction and the provision of convalescent homes, on which he wrote a number of pamphlets between 1831 and 1861.

Roberton's advice was largely sought in the department that he had specially studied, namely, obstetrics, in which his opinions were characterised by great breadth of thought; and he helped much to extend the fame of the Manchester school of obstetrics founded by White and continued by Hull and Radford.

He was an active social reformer, interesting himself in all local and national movements for bettering the condition of the working classes. In religion he was a puritan and nonconformist, and the intimate friend of the popular preachers Dr. Robert Stephen McAll [q. v.] and Dr. Robert Halley [q. v.] He died on 24 Aug. 1876, at his residence at New Mills, Derbyshire, whither he had retired on relinquishing his practice. He married a daughter of David Bellhouse, senior, of Manchester.

His writings, many of which were read as papers before the Manchester Statistical Society, include: 1. ‘Critical Remarks on certain recently published Opinions concerning Life and Mind,’ 1836. 2. ‘Answer to Objections against Vaccination,’ 1839. 3. ‘On a Proposal to withhold Outdoor Relief from Widows with Families,’ 1840. 4. ‘Report on the Amount and Causes of Death in Manchester,’ 1845. 5. ‘On the Proper Regulation of Labourers engaged in the Construction and Working of Railways,’ 1845. 6. ‘On the Climate of Manchester,’ 1850. 7. ‘On the Partition of Landed Property’ (anonymous), 1851. 8. ‘Educational Voluntaryism an amiable Delusion,’ written under the pseudonym of James Fagg, 1853. 9. Another pamphlet on the same subject, with the pseudonym of Godfrey Topping, 1854. 10. ‘Improvement of Municipal Government,’ 1854. 11. ‘National Schools of Ireland,’ 1855. 12. ‘On certain Legalised Forms of Temptation as Causes of Crime,’ 1857. 13. ‘Insalubrity of the Deep Cornish Mines,’ &c., 1859. 14. ‘On the Laws of Nature's Ventilation,’ &c., 1862. 15. ‘The Duty of England to provide a Gratuitous Compulsory Education for the Children of the Poorer Classes,’ 1865.

[Manchester Guardian, 28 Aug. 1876; English Independent, 31 Aug. 1876; Short Biogr. of Robert Halley, 1877, p. xliii; Slugg's Reminiscences of Manchester, 1881, pp. 50, 136; Royal Society Cat. of Scientific Papers; information supplied by Dr. D. Lloyd Roberts.]

C. W. S.