Swayne, Joseph Griffiths (DNB12)

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SWAYNE, JOSEPH GRIFFITHS (1819–1903), obstetric physician, born on 18 Oct. 1819 at Bristol, was second son of John Champeny Swayne, lecturer on midwifery in the Bristol medical school, whose father was for nearly sixty years vicar of Pucklechurch, Gloucestershire. His mother was eldest daughter of Dr. Thomas Griffiths, a medical practitioner in Bristol. After education at the now extinct proprietary Bristol college, where one of his teachers was Francis William Newman [q. v. Suppl. I], Swayne was apprenticed to his father and at the same time studied at the Bristol medical school and the royal infirmary. Later he went to Guy's Hospital and became M.R.C.S. and a licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries in 1841. He also studied in Paris, and in 1842 graduated M.B. of the University of London, obtaining the gold medal in obstetric medicine and being bracketed with Sir Alfred Baring Garrod [q. v. Suppl. II] for the gold medal in medicine. In 1845 he proceeded M.D. at London and joined his father as lecturer on midwifery in the Bristol medical school; he was sole lecturer from 1850 until 1895, when he was appointed emeritus professor. In 1853 he was elected physician accoucheur to the Bristol general hospital, one of the first appointments of the kind out of London; he held this post until 1875, when he became consulting obstetric physician. Greatly esteemed as a consultant, he had a large practice in the west of England. He attached an importance in advance of his time to asepsis, and deprecated long hair or beards for those who practise surgery or midwifery. As early as 1843 he investigated cholera, and described a micro-organism which some have suggested was the comma bacillus which Koch proved to be the cause of the disease in 1884. Swayne died suddenly on 1 Aug. 1903, and was buried at Arno's Vale cemetery, Bristol. He married Georgina (d. 1865), daughter of the Rev. G. Gunning, and had issue one son and one daughter.

Swayne possessed much artistic and literary ability. He published, in addition to many papers in medical journals, 'Obstetric Aphorisms for the Use of Students' (1856; 10th edit. 1893), which was translated into eight languages, including Japanese and Hindustani.

[Bristol Med. Chir. Journal, 1903, xxi. 193-202 (with photograph and bibliography); Brit. Med. Journal, 1903, ii. 338.]

H. D. R.