Oldham, Henry (DNB12)

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OLDHAM, HENRY (1815–1902), obstetric physician, sixth son and ninth child of Adam Oldham (1781–1839) of Balham, solicitor, was born on 31 Jan. 1815. His father's family claimed kinship with Hugh Oldham [q. v.], bishop of Exeter, the founder of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and of the Manchester grammar school. His mother, Ann Lane, was a daughter of William Stubbington Penny, whose father, Francis Penny (1714–1759), of a Hampshire family, once edited the 'Gentleman's Magazine.' Oldham's younger brother, James, was a surgeon at Brighton whose son, Charles James Oldham (1843–1907), also a surgeon in that town, invented a refracting ophthalmoscope, and bequeathed 50,000l. to public institutions, including the Manchester grammar school. Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and the universities of both Oxford and Cambridge, for the foundation of Charles Oldham scholarships and prizes for classical and Shakespearean study.

Oldham, educated at Mr. Balaam's school at Clapham and at the London University, entered in 1834 the medical school of Guy's Hospital. In May 1837 he became M.R.C.S. England; in September following a licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries; in 1843 a licentiate (corresponding to the present member), and in 1857 fellow, of the Royal College of Physicians of London. He proceeded M.D. at St. Andrews in 1858. In 1849 he was appointed—with Dr. J. C. W. Lever—physician-accoucheur and lecturer on midwifery and diseases of women at Guy's Hospital. Before this appointment he had studied embryology in the developing chick by means of coloured injections and the microscope. After twenty years' service he became consulting obstetric physician. He was pre-eminent as a lecturer and made seventeen contributions to the 'Guy's Hospital Reports,' besides writing four papers in the 'Transactions of the Obstetrical Society of London,' of which he was one of the founders, an original trustee, and subsequently president (1863–5). He invented the term 'missed labour,' that is, when the child dies in the womb and labour fails to come on; but the specimen on which he based his view has been differently interpreted. His name is also associated with the hypothesis that menstruation is due to periodic excitation of the ovaries.

Oldham had an extensive and lucrative practice in the City of London, first at 13 Devonshire Square, Bishopsgate Street, and then at 25 Finsbury Square; about 1870 he moved to 4 Cavendish Place, W., and in 1899 retired to Bournemouth, where he died on 19 Nov. 1902, being buried in the cemetery there. He was a great walker, an extremely simple eater, and for the last fifteen years of his life never ate meat, fish, or fowl.

He married in 1838 Sophia (d. 1885), eldest daughter of James Smith of Peckham, and had six children, four daughters and two sons, of whom one died in infancy and the other is Colonel Sir Henry Hugh Oldham, C.V.O., lieutenant of the honourable corps of gentlemen-at-arms.

[Obstet. Soc. Trans., 1903, xlv. 71; information from Colonel Sir Henry H. Oldham, C.V.O., and F. Taylor, M.D., F.R.C.P.]

H. D. R.