Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lizars, John

LIZARS, JOHN (1787?–1860), surgeon, son of Daniel Lizars, a publisher, was born at Edinburgh about 1787. His brother, William Home Lizars [q. v.], is separately noticed, and a sister, Jane Home, married Sir William Jardine of Applegirth, seventh baronet. He was educated at Edinburgh High School and University, and having obtained his medical diploma by 1810, he acted as surgeon on board a man-of-war commanded by Admiral Sir Charles Napier, and saw active service on the Portuguese coast, during the Peninsular war, under Lord Exmouth. Returning to Edinburgh in 1815, he was admitted a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of that city, and became a partner with John Bell, his old medical tutor, and Robert Allan, both well-known surgeons in Edinburgh. He was highly successful, first in partnership and afterwards alone, as a teacher of anatomy and surgery, and in 1831 was appointed to succeed John Turner as professor of surgery in the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh. With this appointment he combined that of senior operating surgeon of the Royal Infirmary, in which post Robert Liston [q. v.] was his colleague. He had in 1822 issued the work by which he is chiefly known, ‘A System of Anatomical Plates of the Human Body, accompanied with Descriptions, and Physiological, Pathological, and Surgical Observations,’ Edinburgh, fol. Although the letterpress is necessarily out of date, the numerous and beautifully executed plates (done by his brother William under Lizars's close supervision) are still valuable to the anatomical student. They were extensively used by medical students of the last generation. It was followed in 1835 by ‘Observations on Extraction of diseased Ovaria, illustrated by [five] Plates coloured after Nature,’ 1835, fol., and in 1835 by a ‘System of Practical Surgery, with numerous explanatory Plates, the Drawings after Nature,’ Edinburgh, 8vo. The chief blemish on these works was the bitterness with which Lizars condemned external urethrotomy as practised by James Syme [q. v.], afterwards professor of clinical surgery in the university of Edinburgh, who had been an unsuccessful competitor for the post held by Lizars. The latter subsequently went so far as to insinuate in a public lecture that Syme had endangered a patient's life and ruined his health by want of care in averting hemorrhage after an operation. This was followed by a lawsuit, in which Syme claimed 1,100l. damages for false and malicious statement, and although the suit does not appear to have been successful, Syme succeeded in dissuading the College of Surgeons from re-electing a professor of surgery when Lizars's tenure of the office determined. Though a successful as well as an intrepid operator, and an able contributor to the chief medical journals, Lizars was unable (no doubt partly owing to certain eccentricities, both of manner and conduct) to obtain any further public appointment, and his private practice had greatly declined previous to his sudden death, not without suspicion of laudanum, on 21 May 1860.

Lizars introduced into surgery the operation for the removal of the upper jaw, and his name is commemorated in the medical profession by the well-known ‘Lizars lines.’

[Annual Register, 1860, p. 456; Lancet, 26 May 1860; Edinburgh Medical Journal, 1860, ii. 101; Gent. Mag. 1860, pt. ii. p. 101; McCall's Some Old Families, 1890, pp. 11, 15, 19, 21; Bettany's Eminent Doctors, ii. 39, 48, 74, 109; Medical Directories, and Lizars's Works in British Museum; private information.]

T. S.