Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Watson, Thomas (1792-1882)

WATSON, Sir THOMAS (1792–1882), first baronet, physician, eldest son of Joseph Watson of Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex, and his wife Mary, daughter of Thomas Catton, was born at Montrath, near Cullompton in Devonshire, on 7 March 1792. He was educated at the grammar school of Bury St. Edmunds, where Charles James Blomfield [q. v.], afterwards bishop of London, was his contemporary; they continued friends throughout life. Watson entered St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1811, and graduated B.A. as tenth wrangler in 1815. He was elected a fellow in 1816, and in 1818 graduated M.A. He studied medicine at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, where he attended the lectures of John Abernethy [q. v.], in 1819. After spending one session at Edinburgh, he again resided at Cambridge, obtained the university license in medicine in 1822, was junior proctor in 1823–4, and graduated M.D. in 1825 (Graduati Cantabr. p. 549). In the same year, on 15 Sept., he married Sarah, daughter of Edward Jones of Brackley, Northamptonshire, and took a house in London. He was elected a fellow of the College of Physicians in 1826, and in May 1827 physician to the Middlesex Hospital, which was then connected with University College. He was professor of clinical medicine, and lectured from 1828 to 1831. In 1831 he became lecturer on forensic medicine at King's College, London, and in 1835 professor of medicine, an office which he held till 1840. He continued to be physician to the Middlesex Hospital till 1843. In that year he published his famous ‘Lectures on the Principles and Practice of Physic,’ which had first been printed in the ‘Medical Times and Gazette.’ The author corrected five editions, and it continued for thirty years the chief English text-book of medicine. It contains no discoveries, but is based upon sound clinical observations, gives a complete view of English medicine of its period, and is remarkable for its good literary style. At the College of Physicians he gave the Gulstonian lectures in 1827, the Lumleian lectures on hæmorrhage in 1831, and was a censor in 1828, 1837, and 1838. In 1862 he was elected president, and was re-elected for five successive years. He was elected F.R.S. in 1859, and in 1864 was made an honorary LL.D. at Cambridge. In 1857 he became president of the Pathological Society, and in 1868 of the Clinical Society. His practice as a physician was large, and in 1859 he was appointed physician extraordinary to the queen, and in 1870 physician in ordinary. He was one of the physicians who attended the prince consort in his last illness. He was created a baronet on 27 June 1866. He retired from practice soon after 1870. He last attended the comitia of the College of Physicians in March 1882, on which occasion all the fellows present rose when he entered the room, a rare mark of respect, and the highest honour which the college can bestow on one of its fellows who has ceased to hold office.

Watson died on 11 Dec. 1882. His portrait, by George Richmond, hangs in the censors' room at the College of Physicians. He left a son, Sir Arthur Townley Watson, Q.C., and one daughter.

[Marshall's obituary notice in Medico-Chirurgical Transactions, vol. lxvi.; Lancet, obituary notice, 16 Dec. 1882; Works.]

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