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Imperial Magazine;




(1829. Biographical Sketch of

very imperfect, owing to the low state of SIR ASTLEY PASTON COOPER, BART. F. R.S.

the mechanical arts, and the general igno

rance of the structure of the human frame. (With a Portrait.)

We cannot, at present, conceive how any MEDICINE, surgery, and pharmacy, were operations could be performed on so comnot originally distinct professions, but unit- plicated a body, without an exact knowed in the same person. It was not necessary ledge of the arrangement and connexion of to subdivide the healing art into separate its parts. Anatomy is undoubtedly the classes, till knowledge became extended, foundation both of medicine and surgery; and the occupations of men multiplied.- since without some skill in this science, it is Celsus says, and there is every probability impossible to ascertain either the seat or the in favour of his assertion, that surgery is cause of several diseases. It would, therethe most ancient branch of medical science; fore, appear natural to suppose, that anafor which a good reason may be assigned, tomy must have been at least as ancient as in the simplicity of primeval manners: and medicine or surgery. But history contradicts it has ever been observed, that savages this idea. are generally dexterous in treating wounds Anatomy is at present that branch of art and other casualties, while they are per- which requires the deepest study and penefectly ignorant of remedies for inward dis-tration, the most various and extensive orders.

knowledge, and the most delicate operaTo say nothing of other accidents which tions, conducted with great care, and good inrequire the assistance of surgery, men were struments. Anatomy, therefore, considered in very early engaged in quarrels; and, there- this point of view, must have been unfore, as soon as battles were fought, it be- known in the first ages of the world. Notcame necessary to study the art of extracting withstanding this, men might have some arrows, stanching blood, reducing disloca- imperfect knowledge, even then, of the intions, setting broken bones, and healing ternal structure of their bodies, particularly wounds and bruises. These things, how- from opening those of the animals made ever, require such a degree of experience use of for their food; besides which, some and dexterity, as can only be acquired by useful hints must also have been furnished long practice. It was consequently requi- by the frequent recurrence of wounds, fracsite that some persons should devote them- tures, and other accidents. Yet even with selves to the study; and it is even likely the light thus afforded, the curative art that the first physicians owed the honours necessarily made a slow progress; a of that name to their skill in surgical striking proof of which is, the fact, that the operations.

study of anatomy was quite abandoned for We have no account of the manner of many years, and was not resumed till the healing wounds in the early ages of the sixteenth century. world, but it was doubtless very simple. At that period, the first surgeons in Bandages must have been the first means Europe were blind followers of the Arabian used for stopping blood, and defending the practitioners, and, neglecting operations, eninjured part from the air. In process of deavoured to supply their want of dexterity time, the juice of roots or simples, either by increasing the number of cataplasms. A pounded or steeped in wine or water, would few of the more expert occasionally atbe adopted for the same purpose. The tempted difficult cases, but their learned wood and bark of certain trees, oil, and brethren could not be easily convinced of resin, were also used. These were the only the advantage of operative practice. The remedies originally known. The composi- Gothic taste still prevailed in the construction and virtue of ointments and plasters tion of chirurgical instruments, which were must have been of posterior date.

so complicated and clumsy, as rather With respect to operations, we may well calculated to aggravate than diminish the believe, that they were for a long period evils they were designed to remove.

124.-VOL. XI.


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Biography of Sir Astley Paston Cooper.

292 Innumerable instances might be adduced, dical science as the continental states, she from which it would appear, that the most did not neglect it in any of its branches. skilful surgeons of this age very seldom The foundation of the Royal College of undertook difficult operations; and that Physicians, and of St. Bartholomew's and these were generally intrusted to ignorant St. Thomas's hospitals, at the beginning of barbers or itinerant pretenders.

the Reformation, gave an impetus to study, One history is very remarkable. When by dignifying the profession, and checking Mathias, king of Hungary, was wounded empiricism. The incorporation of the body in a battle against the Moldavians, in 1464, of surgeons, at the same time, was another the arrow remained so closely fastened in step in the advancement of the healing art, the wound, that none of the royal surgeons but unfortunately the art was degraded by would venture to extract it. The monarch, uniting this fraternity with the worshipful therefore, issued a proclamation, in which society of barbers; and what is more exhe offered great riches and high honours to traordinary, near three centuries were sufthe person who would repair to his court, fered to pass before the unnatural alliance and heal the wound. Notwithstanding the was legally dissolved. One consequence powerful excitement thus held out, four of this preposterous connection was, the years elapsed before any adventurer ap- depression of science; and though the peared. At length, however, John of discovery of the circulation of the blood Dockenburg, a surgeon of Alsatia, ventured conferred immortality on Harvey, the practo undertake the task, and saved the king, tice of surgery received comparatively but who loaded him with extraordinary rewards. little improvement, till the noble establish

It merits observation, that all evils are, ment of Guy's Hospital, and its union with the in some degree, productive of good. Thus neighbouring one of St. Thomas's, by which the madness of the crusaders, in which means England at length obtained a medical millions perished, extended commercial in- school of the first reputation. Before this tercourse, and introduced various scientific took place, students who were desirous of improvements hitherto unknown among the acquiring a thorough knowledge of anatomy European nations. In like manner, the and of operative surgery, found it expeinvention of gunpowder, and its application dient to visit the continent, and to profit by to warlike purposes, gave a new and bene- the lectures and practice of foreign profes. ficial turn to the practice of surgery.

sors, particularly those of Paris. As the treatment of gun-shot wounds The case is now altered ; and though could neither be learnt from the writings of much has been said of the impediments to the ancients, nor from the methods of the medical study, by the want of subjects for Arabians and Saracens, the surgeons were anatomical purposes, the alleged deficiency now under the necessity of studying the has not had the effect which might have structure of the parts, and of adopting a been expected, of deteriorating the profesbolder method of practice, for the extraction sion, or preventing improvement. On the of balls, the reduction of fractures, and the contrary, the number of practitioners has amputation of limbs. The number of prac- rapidly increased of late years, and England titioners therefore multiplied, particularly may boast of operators, who in skill and in those countries which were much ex- knowledge are not surpassed, if, indeed, posed to war; and with that increase, me equalled, by any in Europe. dical science rose to distinction. No cen- Among these distinguished persons, withtury, indeed, was ever so productive of out disparagement to others, the name of great and interesting discoveries, nor in any Sir Astley Paston Cooper stands predid the knowledge of the human frame eminent, both as an operative surgeon and advance so rapidly, as in the period of teacher of anatomy. which we are speaking, and which formed This celebrated practitioner was born on a new era in the history of mankind, by the 23d of August, 1768. His father, the the junction of the two hemispheres, the reverend Samuel Cooper, D. D. who then invention of printing, and the wide diffusion resided at Great Yarmouth, in Norfolk, was of scriptural knowledge. The concurrence rector of Yelverton and of Morley, in that of these important events, about the very county; and his mother was the daughter point of time most fayourable to the pro- and heiress of James Barnsby, Esq. of duction of general and continued improve. Spottisham, also in Norfolk. ment, cannot be ascribed to blind chance, The subject of this memoir, who was a but is resolvable only into the design of younger son, obtained his baptismal names infinite wisdom.

from his two godfathers, Sir Jacob Astley Though England cannot be said to have and Mr. Paston, both gentlemen of the first made so early or quick a progress in me. distinction in the county. After receiving

Biography of Sir Astley Paston Cooper.

294 a private education, he was, at his own trived a plan of securing the arteries; but desire, articled to Mr. Henry Cline, prin- bis method sometimes failed in practice, cipal surgeon of Guy's and St. Thomas's on which account that skilful operator, hospitals. Under such an able instructor, Mr. Abernethy, directed his attention to and with the advantage derived from the the subject, and suggested the application practice of two great medical establishments, of two ligatures instead of one, and afteran enterprising and intelligent young man, wards dividing the vessel, thereby lessenwho was bent upon excelling in his profes- ing the danger of hæmorrhage. Great as sion, could not fail to acquire distinction. this improvement was, some danger still The diligence, attention, and acuteness of attended it, particularly from the effusion Mr. Cooper, added to a suavity of disposi- of blood. Mr. Cooper, therefore, contion, and a commendable degree of patience, trived a more facile method of fastening rendered him no less a favourite with the the wounded artery, by an eyed probe patients and students, than with his worthy with a double ligature, which happily preceptor. So well satisfied, indeed, was answered the purpose, and that in some Mr. Cline with the steadiness and ability of very desperate cases. his pupil, that he entrusted him with a large In 1804, Mr. Cooper published, in one share of hospital practice, even in cases of volume, folio, and dedicated to Mr. the most intricate nature. The curators Cline, a work_entituled “The Anatomy also were equally confident in him, and as and Surgical Treatment of Inguinal and a testimony of their approbation, appointed Congenital Hernia, illustrated by Plates.” him, while yet very young, demonstrator of - Though the world in general is not anatomy at St. Thomas's, and assistant quite aware of the extreme frequency of surgeon at Guy's hospital. Mr. Cline being hernia, every medical practitioner knows thus, in a great measure, relieved from the that the disease is one of common occurweight of labour, gradually relinquished the rence in every rank of life. But notwithtask of lecturing to Mr. Cooper; and this, standing the obligation under which the instead of lessening, considerably increased faculty lie, of studying this complaint in the number of pupils at the hospital, as all its varieties, there was still wanting a well as auditors in the theatre.

clear and accurate treatise, exhibiting all In the year 1800, Mr. Cooper appeared that minute anatomy has been able to before the public in the character of a discover, and skilful surgery to practise, discoverer in anatomy. This was in a in the knowledge and treatment of hernia. communication to the Royal Society, of an This deficiency was now in a great degree important paper, stating the effects produced supplied by our author, who in his preface on the organ of hearing, by a perforation of says, “I have almost uniformly avoided the membrana tympani, commonly called quoting the opinions of authors on this the drum of the ear. It had hitherto been part of surgery. This I have done, generally imagined, that such an accident certainly not from any wish to slight or must be unavoidably attended with deaf- undervalue the labours of some of the ness, but several cases were adduced, all most excellent physiologists and pracconcurring in the proof, that the loss of this titioners that have adorned our profession, faculty is but partial, and sometimes so but because it did not form a part of my little, as to produce very slight inconve- plan to give a history of this branch of nience. A perforation of the membrane is surgery, and because I wanted to confine indicated when air or smoke can be drawn myself to the very wide scene of obserfrom the mouth through the external ear. vation afforded by the two noble insti

Other communications, wholly of an tutions of St. Thomas's and Guy's Hosexperimental nature, free from hypothesis, pitals, and to that portion of the practice and drawn up with commendable sim- of this metropolis which I have been perplicity, were made to the same learned sonally enabled to authenticale. I have body; in consequence of which, on the therefore, related no cure, and given no 18th of February, 1802, Mr. Cooper was remark, to the truth of which I cannot unanimously elected a member of the vouch; and for the same reason, the Royal Society.

subjects of all the plates annexed to this In the same year he imparted to the volume, are from preparations either in editors of the London Medical and Phy- my own possession, or in the Anatomical sical Journal, some interesting and im- Museum at St. Thomas's Hospital.” portant cases, accompanied with a descrip- The style of this performance, as also tive plate, exemplifying an improved that of all the author's productions, is a treatment of popliteal aneurism. The simple communication of facts, clear and celebrated surgeon, John Hunter, first con- unaffected. Almost every thing relating

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