Woolhouse, John Thomas (DNB00)

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WOOLHOUSE, JOHN THOMAS (1650?–1734), oculist, belonged to a family who followed that profession from father to son for four generations. Born, according to Haeser, about 1650, he travelled throughout Europe to make himself familiar with the various methods of treating diseases of the eye, and thus became known to the principal men of the age. He served for a time as groom of the chamber to James II, who also appointed him his oculist. In 1711 he was living at the Hôtel Notre-Dame, Rue St. Benoist, at Paris, where he served as surgeon to the Hospice des Quinze-Vingts. In Paris he is said to have had a large practice, but on his return to England later in his life he failed to secure much attention. He was, however, admitted a fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1721. He was a member of the Royal Academy at Berlin, and of the Noble Institute of Bologna. He died in England on 15 Jan. 1733–4.

Woolhouse appears by his writings to have approached perilously near to charlatanism, yet we owe to him the performance of iridectomy for the restoration of sight in cases of occluded pupil, an operation which he described in 1711. On the other hand, he wrote strongly against Heister's correct teaching that the seat of cataract is the crystalline lens.

Woolhouse published: 1. ‘Catalogue des Instruments pour les Opérations des Yeux,’ Paris, 1696, 8vo. 2. ‘Expériences des différentes Opérations Manuelles et des Guérisons spécifiques,’ 1711, Paris, 12mo; a catchpenny account of the cases he had cured; translated into German, Jena, 1715. 3. ‘Observations sur le Mémoire Académique de Monsieur Morand,’ Paris, 1726, 12mo; published anonymously. 4. ‘Dissertations Scavantes et Critiques … sur la Cataracte et le Glaucome … par M. Christoffle Le Cerf,’ Offenbach-on-the-Main, undated. 5. ‘Dissertationes Ophthalmicæ de Cataracta et Glaucomate … e Gallica in Latinam Linguam translatæ,’ Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1719, 12mo. An unpublished manuscript of his, in two quarto volumes, is now in the library of the Royal College of Surgeons of England; the first part is headed ‘Definitiones Ophthalmicæ;’ the second part treats of disease of the eye curable (a) without, (b) with operation.

[Woolhouse's Works; Biographie Universelle, li. 197; Gent. Mag. 1734, p. 50; Haeser's Geschichte der Medicin, ii. 705.]

D’A. P.