College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, having previously spent sometime in Paris studying anatomy and surgery. As soon as he was qualified he made two voyages to Calcutta in 1833 as surgeon to an East Indiaman. He afterwards returned to Edinburgh, where he had a severe attack of typhus fever. There he began to teach anatomy as the university demonstrator under Professor Alexander Monro tertius [q. v.], and in this occupation he continued for seven years. He resigned his post in 1842, and joined Drs. Handyside and Lonsdale in the extramural school of anatomy at 1 Surgeons' Square, to act as demonstrator in place of Dr. Allen Thomson [q. v.], who had been appointed to the chair of physiology in the university. There Spence took part in the lecture-room course of demonstrations on regional anatomy, as well as in the dissecting-room teaching. His teaching was greatly appreciated in the school, at that time the chief school of anatomy in Edinburgh. He was a remarkably dexterous dissector, and some of his beautiful preparations of the vascular system are still preserved in the university.
Spence, who was in surgical practice while teaching anatomy, left the dissecting-room in 1846, and gave lectures on his favourite parts of surgery. In 1849, on becoming a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, he lectured systematically on surgery, at first at High Schools Yards, adjoining the royal infirmary, where Robert Liston [q. v.] and James Miller [q. v.] had lectured, and, on the death of Richard Mackenzie in 1854, at the school at Surgeons' Hall. In 1864, on the death of Professor James Miller, he was appointed professor of surgery in the university. He had been appointed assistant surgeon to the Royal Infirmary in 1850, full surgeon in 1854, clinical lecturer in 1856, and he continued, as professor of surgery, to act as surgeon at the infirmary till his death. He was appointed surgeon in ordinary to the queen in Scotland in 1865, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1867 and 1868, and member of the general medical council in 1881, representing there the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
He died at 21 Ainslie Place, Edinburgh, on 6 June 1882, and was buried in the Grange cemetery, Edinburgh. A three-quarter length in oils was painted by James Irvine. It was etched by Durand of Paris, and a replica is in the possession of the Royal College of Surgeons at Edinburgh. The portrait was presented to Professor Spence on 18 July 1881, in the name of the medical profession of Great Britain, Ireland, and the Colonies.
He married, in 1847, the daughter of Thomas Fair of Buenos Ayres, by whom he had six sons and three daughters.
Spence must be reckoned among the great operating surgeons who have rendered Edinburgh famous throughout the world. Like Liston, Fergusson, and Syme, he had so intimate a knowledge of anatomy that every step in a difficult operation was foreseen. He was especially happy in his treatment of tracheotomy, herniotomy, urinary diseases, and amputations, yet he was essentially a conservative surgeon, and, like his great contemporary, Sir William Scovell Savory [q. v.], he maintained that, in skilled hands, the simple methods of the older school were preferable to, and gave as good results as, the more complicated system adopted by the disciples of the antiseptic school of Lister. After the death of James Syme in 1870 Spence became the leading consulting and operating surgeon, and occupied that position until his death.
He published: ‘Lectures on Surgery,’ plates, 4 pts. in 2 vols. 8vo, 1868–9–71; 2nd edit. 1875; 3rd edit. 1882. This is the work upon which Spence's reputation as a writer chiefly rests. He also contributed many papers upon anatomical and surgical subjects to various Scottish, English, and Irish scientific journals.
[Obituary notices in the Edinburgh Medical Journal, 1882, xxviii. 89–96, British Medical Journal, 1882, i. 928, Lancet, 1882, i. 1011; private information from Mrs. Spence and Professor Struthers, F.R.S.]
SPENCE, JOSEPH (1699–1768), anecdotist and friend of Pope, was born at Kingsclere in Hampshire on 25 April 1699, and was the son of Joseph Spence, rector of Winnal in the same county. At an early age ‘he was taken under the protection of Mr. Fawkener, an opulent relation.’ Fawkener provided for his education at Eton, where he did not continue long, and in 1715 was elected, at the reputed age of 14, scholar of Winchester. He matriculated from Magdalen Hall, Oxford, on 11 April 1717 (at the reputed age of 16), became fellow of New College in 1720, graduated B.A. on 9 March 1723–4, took holy orders in 1724, and proceeded M.A. in 1727. He had in 1726 published dialogues on Pope's translation of the ‘Odyssey’ (‘An Essay on Pope's Odyssey: in which some particular Beauties and Blemishes of that work are considered,’ London and Oxford, 1726, 8vo), which probably procured him the office of professor of poetry in the following year ‘on the first day he became capable of it.’ This was on 11 July 1728, when he succeeded Thomas Warton. He was elected in 1733 for a second term