Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Carlisle, Anthony
CARLISLE, Sir ANTHONY (1768–1840), surgeon, was born at Stillington, Durham, in 1768. He became the medical pupil of an uncle at York, after whose death he was placed under Mr. Green, founder of the Durham City Hospital. After attending the lectures of John Hunter, Baillie, and Cruikshank, and being the resident pupil of Mr. Henry Watson, surgeon to Westminster Hospital, he succeeded to the surgeoncy, on Watson's death, in 1793, and held the office till his own death in 1840. Carlisle became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1800, and in 1804 delivered the Croonian lecture on 'Muscular Motion,' following it by another on the 'Muscles of Fishes' in 1806. He contributed other papers on biological subjects to the Philosophical and Linnean 'Transactions,' the 'Philosophical Magazine,' &c. Carlisle was long a member of the council of the College of Surgeons (from 1815) and an examiner (from April 1825), holding these appointments till death. In 1820 and in 1826 he delivered the Hunterian oration at the college, and on other occasions lectured on anatomy and surgery; he also considerably added to the library and museum. He was resident of the college in 1829 and 1839. He gained admission as a student to the Royal Academy while still young, and wrote an essay in the 'Artist' on the 'Connection between Anatomy and the Fine Arts,' in which he expressed the opinion that minute knowledge of anatomy was not necessary to the historical painter and sculptor. In 1808 the social connection which he had cultivate led to his obtaining the professorship of anatomy at the Academy, notwithstanding Charles Bell's candidature. This post he held for sixteen years. He was surgeon-extraordinary to the prince recent, and was knighted on the prince's accession. He took great interest in Westminster Hospital, and was largely instrumental in raising funds for the new building. He died on 2 Nov. 1840, at his house in Langham Place, aged 72.
Carlisle was neither a brilliant anatomist nor physiologist, but was a fairly good surgeon. His introduction of the thin-bladed, straight-edged amputating knife, in place of the old clumsy crooked one, and his use of the simple carpenter's saw make his name chiefly worthy of note. He was handsome and good-humoured, but very vain and crotchety, and in his later years somewhat slovenly and negligent of his duties.
In 1800, in conjunction with W. Nicholson, Carlisle engaged in important researches on voltaic electricity, and is credited by Nicholson with first observing the decomposition of water by the electric current (Journal of Natural Philosophy, iv. July 1800, 179-87), and with several ingenious experiments and observations.
Among Carlisle's miscellaneous publications may be mentioned: 'An Essay on the Disorders of Old Age, and on the Means of prolonging Human Life,' 1817, 2nd edit. 1818; 'Alleged Discovery of the Use of the Spleen,' 1829; 'Lecture on Cholera,' 1832; 'Practical Observations on the Preservation of Health and the Prevention of Diseases,' 1838; 'Physiological Observations upon Glandular Structures,' 1834. A list of his scientific papers is given in the Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers, i. 1867.
[Pettigrew's Medical Portrait Gallery, 1840, vol. ii.; Gent. Mag. December 1840, ii. 660; Georgian Era, ii. 1833, p. 688; J. F. Clarke's Autobiographical Recollections of the Medical Profession, 1874, 283-94.]