Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Crosse, John Green

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CROSSE, JOHN GREEN (1790–1850), surgeon, also known as John Cross (Sketches of Medical Schools of Paris and Small-pox at Norwich, title-pages), was the son of a Suffolk yeoman, and was born in 1790 near Stowmarket. At an early age he was apprenticed to Mr. Baily, a surgeon-apothecary in Stowmarket, whose daughter he married in 1815. When his apprenticeship was finished he came to London, and studied at St. George's Hospital and at the then famous school of anatomy in Windmill Street, where he was noted for his skill in dissection. This led to his first appointment. Macartney, the professor of anatomy in Trinity College, Dublin, asked Brodie to recommend a demonstrator to him, and Brodie nominated Crosse, who proved as successful as a teacher as he had been as a pupil. When he presented himself for examination at the Dublin College of Surgeons, that corporation, whose examinations have not always been above the suspicion of partiality, declared the London demonstrator not to be learned enough to receive a Dublin diploma. Crosse left Dublin and went to Paris, where he spent the winter of 1814–15. He wrote letters descriptive of the hospital practice of Paris to friends in London and Dublin, and on his return published them as a book, ‘Sketches of the Medical Schools of Paris,’ which gives an interesting account of surgical and anatomical education in Paris. He heard Dupuytren lecturing on inguinal hernia to twelve hundred students, and thought such a class more flattering to the lecturer than serviceable to the students; he found Chaussier's lecture of an hour on methods of opening the skull for purposes of dissection prolix rather than useful. The anatomists in general he found too purely anatomical, and they disappointed him after being accustomed, in London and Dublin, to hear anatomy illustrated by cases in surgery. He thought the London education better, except that there were good lectures on medical jurisprudence in Paris, and at that time none in London. He was chiefly interested in anatomy and surgery, and tells scarcely anything about the physicians of Paris. In March 1815 Crosse settled in Norwich, and in 1820 published ‘A History of the Variolous Epidemic which occurred in Norwich in the year 1819.’ It contains a clear account of the progress of vaccination in the eastern counties and of its beneficial results. In 1823 he became assistant-surgeon to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, and in 1826 surgeon. Norwich is the centre of a district in which stone in the bladder is a common disease, and nearly every great Norwich surgeon has been famous as a lithotomist. Crosse, after his appointment to the hospital, soon attained fame in the local accomplishment, and large practice as a surgeon. In 1833 he obtained the Jacksonian prize at the College of Surgeons of England for a work on ‘The Formation, Constituents, and Extraction of the Urinary Calculus,’ which was published in quarto in 1835, and contains much original observation, and a full list of previous works on stone. In the following year he was elected F.R.S. He published several papers in the ‘Transactions of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association,’ of which he was president in 1846, and some cases of midwifery written by him were published after his death by Dr. Copeman, one of his pupils. He had a series of forty apprentices, among them the first professor of surgery at Cambridge, and several of them have described his zeal for acquiring medical and surgical knowledge, and his untiring energy in the practice of his profession. In 1848 his health began to fail. He died on 9 June 1850, and was buried in Norwich Cathedral.

[Memoir in Medical Times (in part written by Professor G. M. Humphry of Cambridge), xxii. 285, 311; information from Sir James Paget and Dr. P. S. Abraham; Crosse's Works.]

N. M.