Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Atthill, Lombe

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ATTHILL, LOMBE (1827–1910), obstetrician and gynaecologist, born on 3 Dec. 1827 at Ardess, Magheraculmoney, co. Fermanagh, was youngest of ten surviving children of William Atthill (1774-1847). The father, of a Norfolk family, after graduating in 1795 as second wrangler and Smith's prizeman, became fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, acted as chaplain (1798-1804) to his relative, Dr. Porter, bishop of Clogher, and was thenceforth beneficed in Ireland. Atthill's mother was Henrietta Margaret Eyre, eldest daughter of George Maunsell, dean of Leighlin. Atthill's elder brother, John Henry Grey Atthill, became chief justice of St. Lucia.

After attending the grammar school, Maidstone, Kent (1839-41), he returned to Ireland to prepare for Trinity College, Dublin. In June 1844 he was apprenticed to Maurice Collis, a surgeon to the Meath Hospital, Dublin, and in July he entered Trinity. In July 1847, while under twenty, he obtained the licence of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and in 1849 he graduated B.A. and M.B. of Dublin University, and in 1865 M.D.

In 1847 he became honorary surgeon to a charitable dispensary in Fleet Street, Dublin, where he gained much experience of typhus, small-pox, and other infective fevers, and during the following winter was assistant demonstrator in the Park Street School of Medicine. From 1848 to 1850 he was dispensary doctor of the district of Geashill in King's County. In 1850 he settled in Dublin and was made assistant physician to the Rotunda Hospital in 1851. While in the Rotunda Hospital for the usual period of three years he endeavoured, without much success, to build up a private practice. A period of pecuniary struggle followed. In 1860 he was elected fellow of the King's and Queen's College of Physicians and from that year to 1868 was registrar of the college. In 1868 there was a turn of fortune. He joined the staff of the Adelaide Hospital and was given charge of a ward for the treatment of diseases peculiar to women, the first appointment of the kind in any Dublin hospital. Gynaecology was practically a new study, and thenceforth Atthill, by his teaching and writings, did much for its development. He was one of the first in Ireland successfully to perform the operation of ovariotomy, his first two cases being successful. In November 1875 he was elected master of the Rotunda Hospital, and thus commanded the best field in the kingdom for obstetric and gynaecological experience, in the Rotunda Hospital he gave gynaecology a place almost as important as mid-wifery. He re-organised the working of that institution by the introduction of Listerian principles, and practically drove puerperal sepsis from the wards (Johnston, Proc. of the Dublin Obstetrical Society, 1875-6, p. 28; Smyly, Trans, of the Royal Acad. of Med. in Ireland, 1891). From 1874 to 1876 he was president of the Dublin Obstetrical Society. He was president of the obstetric section of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland in 1884-5, and again in 1895-7, and was president of the Academy 1900-3. In 1888 he was elected president of the Irish College of Physicians, and from 1889 to 1903 represented the college on the General Medical Council. In 1898 he retired from practice, in which he finally achieved great success. He died suddenly on the platform of Strood railway station near Rochester on 14 September 1910. He was buried at Mount Jerome cemetery, Dublin. He married (1) in April 1850 Elizabeth (d. 1870), daughter of James Dudgeon of Dublin, by whom he had one son and nine daughters ; and (2) on 1 June 1872 Mary, daughter of Robert Christie of Manchester, and widow of John Duffey of Dublin, mother of Sir George Duffey, a president of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

Atthill published at Dublin in 1871 'Clinical Lectures on Diseases Peculiar to Women' (7th edit. 1883 ; reprinted in America, 5th edit. 1882 ; and translated into French 1882, and Spanish 1882). Consisting of lectures to students in the Adelaide Hospital, the book embodied the results of Atthill's own experience, and was for many years regarded as the best English text-book on the subject. In 1910 he published in the 'British Medical Journal' (1910, vol. i.) 'Recollections of a Long Professional Life,' afterwards reprinted for private circulation. Posthumously in 1911 there appeared his 'Recollections of an Irish Doctor,' an interesting reminiscence of Irish life prior to the famine, and a modest description of Atthill's early struggles. Atthill contributed much to professional journals.

[Atthill's Recollections, supra; Medical Press and Circular, 21 Sept. 1910; Burke's Landed Gentry; Todd's Dublin Graduates; MS. Entrance Book, Trin. Coll., Dublin; Proc. Dublin Obstetrical Soc.; Trans. Royal Acad. of Medicine in Ireland; private sources.]

R. J. R.