Travers, Benjamin (DNB00)

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TRAVERS, BENJAMIN (1783–1858), surgeon, was second of the ten children of Joseph Travers, sugar-baker in Queen Street, Cheapside, by his wife, a daughter of the Rev. Francis Spilsbury. He was born in April 1783, and after receiving a classical education at the grammar school of Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, under the Rev. E. Cogan, he was taught privately until at the age of sixteen he was placed in his father's counting-house. He soon evinced a strong dislike to commercial pursuits, and, as his father was a frequent attendant on the lectures of Henry Cline [q. v.] and (Sir) Astley Paston Cooper [q. v.], Travers was articled to Cooper in August 1800 for a term of six years, and became a pupil resident in his house. During the last year of his apprenticeship Travers gave occasional private demonstrations on anatomy to his fellow pupils, and established a clinical society, meeting weekly, of which he was the secretary.

He was admitted a member of the College of Surgeons in 1806, and spent the following session at Edinburgh. He returned to London at the end of 1807, and settled at New Court, St. Swithin's Lane. He was appointed demonstrator of anatomy at Guy's Hospital, and, his father's affairs having become embarrassed, he obtained the appointment in 1809 of surgeon to the East India Company's warehouses and brigade, a corps afterwards disbanded.

On the death of John Cunningham Saunders [q. v.] in 1810, Travers was appointed to succeed him as surgeon to the London Infirmary for Diseases of the Eye, now the Moorfields Ophthalmic Hospital. This post he held for four years single-handed, and so developed its resources as a teaching institution that in 1814 (Sir) William Lawrence [q. v.] was appointed to assist him. Travers was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1813, and he was also elected without opposition a surgeon to St. Thomas's Hospital upon the death of Mr. Birch in March 1815. In the following year he resigned his surgeoncy under the East India Company, though he retained the post of surgeon to the Eye Infirmary until 1816. He took possession of Astley Cooper's house at 3 New Broad Street in 1816, when that surgeon moved to Spring Gardens, and he soon acquired a fair share of practice. At this time he suffered so much from palpitation of the heart that he discontinued his clinical lectures, and in 1819 resigned his joint lectureship on surgery with Astley Cooper, though he again began to lecture upon surgery in 1834 in conjunction with Frederick Tyrell [q. v.], at St. Thomas's Hospital. He was chosen president of the Hunterian Society in 1827, and in the same year he acted as president of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society.

He filled all the important offices at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. He was elected a member of the council in 1830; Hunterian orator in 1838; examiner in surgery, 1841–58; chairman of the board of midwifery examiners, 1855; vice-president in the years 1845, 1846, 1854, 1855, and president in 1847 and 1856. He was a member of the veterinary examining committee in 1833, and on the formation of the queen's medical establishment he was appointed one of her surgeons extraordinary, afterwards becoming surgeon in ordinary to the prince consort and serjeant-surgeon.

Travers was the first hospital surgeon in England to devote himself to the surgery of the eye, and with his colleague (Sir) William Lawrence he did much to elevate this branch of surgery from the condition of quackery into which it had fallen. Travers was also a good pathologist, inheriting the best traditions of the Hunterian school, for he worked upon an experimental basis. He died at his house in Green Street, Grosvenor Square, on 6 March 1858, and was buried at Hendon in Middlesex. He was thrice married: first, to Sarah, daughter of William Morgan (1750–1833) [q. v.], in 1809; secondly, in 1813, to the daughter of G. Millet, an East India director; and thirdly, in 1831, to the youngest daughter of Colonel Stevens. He had a large family, but the eldest son alone was educated for the medical profession.

There is a bust of Travers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Lincoln's Inn Fields. It was executed in 1858 by William Behnes (1794–1864). A portrait painted by C. R. Leslie belongs to the family.

Travers published: 1. ‘An Inquiry into the Process of Nature in repairing Injuries of the Intestines,’ London, 1812, 8vo. 2. ‘A Synopsis of the Diseases of the Eye and their Treatment,’ London, 1820, 8vo; 3rd ed. 1824, issued in New York, 1825. 3. ‘An Inquiry concerning … Constitutional Irritation,’ London, 8vo, 1826; this was followed by ‘a Further Inquiry’ into the same subject, published in 1835. 4. ‘The Physiology of Inflammation and the Healing Process,’ London, 1844, 8vo.

[Medical Times and Gazette, 1858, xvi. 270; Lancet, 1851 i. 48, 1858 ii. 278; Gent. Mag. 1858, i. 444; Pettigrew's Medical Portrait Gallery, vol. iii.]

D’A. P.