Wardrop, James (DNB00)

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WARDROP, JAMES (1782–1869), surgeon, the youngest child of James Wardrop (1738–1830) by his wife Marjory, daughter of Andrew Marjoribanks of Marjoribanks, was born on 14 Aug. 1782 at Torbane Hill, a small property which had belonged to his forefathers for many generations. It adjoined the parish celebrated as the birthplace of the Hunters and Baillies, and was close to Bathgate, where Sir James Young Simpson [q. v.] was afterwards born. Wardrop was educated first at Mr. Stalker's, but he was sent to the High School, Edinburgh, a few weeks after he had entered upon his seventh year. In 1797 he was apprenticed to his uncle Andrew Wardrop, a surgeon of some eminence in Edinburgh. He also assisted John Barclay (1758–1826) [q. v.], the anatomist, and at the age of nineteen he was appointed house surgeon at the Royal Infirmary. He came to London in 1801 to attend the lectures of Abernethy, Cline, and Cooper, and to see the medical practice at St. Thomas's, Guy's, and St. George's hospitals. On 6 May 1803 he proceeded to Paris, and, although English residents in France were treated at the time as prisoners of war, he evaded the police, and, after a few months, escaped to Vienna, where Beer's teaching first interested him in ophthalmic surgery. He returned to Edinburgh after a somewhat extensive tour through Europe, and was admitted a fellow of the College of Surgeons of Edinburgh on 19 June 1804. Here he practised surgery for a time, devoting himself more especially to pathology and the diseases of the eye, and he presented several morbid specimens to the Royal College of Surgeons which are still to be seen in its museum. Finding that there was no immediate opening for him in Edinburgh, he set out for London on 18 April 1808, first taking rooms in York Street, and shortly afterwards renting a house in Charles Street, St. James's, where he lived till his death. He was admitted a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in London without examination in 1814, the master, Sir Everard Home [q. v.], saying that his published works were quite sufficient to entitle him to the diploma. He became a fellow of the College of Surgeons of England in 1843, and the honorary degree of M.D. was conferred upon him by the university of St. Andrews in 1834.

In September 1818 he was appointed surgeon extraordinary to the prince regent, and in 1823, when his majesty visited Scotland as George IV, Wardrop attended him on the journey. He was made surgeon in ordinary to the king in 1828 upon the elevation of Sir Astley Cooper to the post of sergeant surgeon, and he declined a baronetcy shortly afterwards. Circumstances which occurred during the last illness of George IV showed Wardrop that he was unfairly treated by several of his medical colleagues who were attached to the court, and after the king's death he did not present himself again within the circles they influenced. Indeed, he took the matter much to heart, and revenged himself by publishing in the ‘Lancet’ a series of papers entitled ‘Intercepted Letters.’ They purported to contain confidential details of passing events communicated by Sir Henry Halford [q. v.], Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie (1783–1862) [q. v.], and William MacMichael [q. v.], librarian of the Royal College of Physicians. Scurrilous though they are, they are well written and amusing.

Earlier in life Wardrop practised for many years among the poor by giving advice chiefly at his own house. In 1826, in conjunction with William Willocks Sleigh, the father of Serjeant Sleigh, he founded a hospital in Nutford Place, Edgware Road, called the West London Hospital of Surgery. It was not only a charitable institution, but it was open gratuitously to every member of the medical profession. A concours was held on one day in each week, at which operations of importance were done and a discussion took place as to the reasons for the particular method adopted in each case. The hospital was carried on at great expense, which fell chiefly upon Wardrop, who was reluctantly obliged to close it at the end of ten years.

He took a leading part in the discussions of 1826–7 upon the state of the medical profession, and he was an active supporter of the liberal policy advocated by Thomas Wakley [q. v.] and seconded by (Sir) William Lawrence [q. v.]

In 1826 Wardrop, in conjunction with Lawrence, gave a course of lectures on surgery at the Aldersgate Street school of medicine, and, after Lawrence's transfer to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, Wardrop for a few seasons gave these lectures alone. He joined the Hunterian or Great Windmill Street school of medicine as a lecturer on surgery about 1835.

He died at his house in Charles Street, St. James's Square, on 13 Feb. 1869. He married, in 1813, Margaret, a daughter of Colonel George Dalrymple, a lineal descendant of the Earl of Stair, by whom he had four sons and a daughter.

‘James Wardrop,’ says Sir William Fergusson [q. v.] in his Hunterian oration for 1871, ‘possessed great abilities, and was an original thinker and actor. Some of his published didactic works are models of power. The fact that he was the first surgeon in England to remove a tumour of the lower jaw by total vertical section of the bone places him high in the list of first-class practical surgeons, and his modification of Brasdor's operation, his original distal operation for the cure of aneurysm, and the effect that his work has had upon this department of surgery, bring his name into association with that of John Hunter as closely as any other in the history of British surgery.’ Wardrop's great social gifts, his family connections, and his knowledge of horseflesh, coupled with his love for field sports, early brought him into intimate connection with the leading members of the aristocracy, with whom he maintained lifelong relations, partly social and partly professional.

Wardrop published: 1. ‘On Aneurysm and its Cure by a New Operation,’ London, 1828, 8vo; new ed. 1835, 8vo; translated into German, Weimar, 1829. This is the work upon which Wardrop's fame mainly rests. It brought into practical use a modification of Brasdor's operation for the cure of aneurysm by distal ligature of the affected vessel—that is to say, by tying it upon the side of the tumour farthest from the heart. Wardrop's operation is still successfully employed in cases of aneurysm of the blood-vessels at the root of the neck, where it is impossible to adopt Hunter's method of proximal ligature. 2. ‘Observations on Fungus Hæmatodes,’ Edinburgh, 1809, 8vo; translated into German, Leipzig, 1817; and into Dutch, Amsterdam, 1819. 3. ‘Essays on the Morbid Anatomy of the Human Eye,’ Edinburgh, 1808–18, 2 vols. 8vo; 2nd ed. London, 1819–1820, 2 vols. 8vo; another edition, also called the second, was issued by J. Churchill in 2 vols., London, 1834. 4. ‘An Essay on Diseases of the Eye of the Horse, and on their Treatment,’ London, 1819, 8vo. 5. ‘On Blood-letting,’ London, 1835, 12mo; issued in Philadelphia, 1857, 8vo; translated into German, Leipzig, 1840; and into Italian, Pisa, 1839. 6. ‘On the Nature and Treatment of Diseases of the Heart,’ London, 1837, 8vo; part i. only was published at this time. The whole work appeared in 1851, 8vo, and a new edition was issued at Edinburgh in 1859. He was also the author of various minor contributions to the medical journals, of which the most interesting are: (i.) ‘History of James Mitchell, a boy born deaf and blind, with an account of the operation performed for the recovery of his sight,’ London, 1814; (ii.) ‘Case of a lady born blind who received sight at an advanced age,’ London, 1826. He edited the works of Matthew Baillie [q. v.], and prefixed to it a biographical sketch of the author, London, 1825, 2 vols. 8vo.

There are two good portraits of Wardrop: (i.) a half-length in oils by Geddes in the possession of Mrs. Shirley; it was engraved by J. Thomson, and a copy of the engraving is prefixed to Pettigrew's life of Wardrop in the ‘Medical Portrait Gallery.’ (ii.) A three-quarter length in oils by Robert Frain, painted much later in his life than the previous one. It is in the possession of Mr. Hew Wardrop.

[Pettigrew's Medical Portrait Gallery, vol. ii.; J. F. Clarke's Autobiogr. Recollections of the Medical Profession, 1874, pp. 336–53; information kindly given by Hew D. H. Wardrop, esq., his son, with additional facts from manuscripts in the possession of Mrs. Shirley, his daughter.]

D’A. P.