Saunders, John Cunningham (DNB00)

SAUNDERS, JOHN CUNNINGHAM (1773–1810), ophthalmic surgeon, the youngest son of John Cunningham and Jane Saunders of Lovistone, Devonshire, was born on 10 Oct. 1773. He was sent to school at Tavistock when he was eight years old, and afterwards to South Molton, where he remained until 1790. He was then apprenticed to John Hill, surgeon of Barnstaple. He served his master for the usual term of five years and came to London, where in 1795 he entered the combined hospitals of St. Thomas and Guy in the Borough. He worked at anatomy so assiduously that in 1797 he was appointed demonstrator in that subject at St. Thomas's Hospital. This post he owed to the influence of Astley Cooper, whose house-pupil he was, and to whom he acted as dresser. He resigned his demonstratorship in 1801, and went into the country for a short time; but on his return to London he was reappointed demonstrator, and held the post until his death.

He took a prominent part in founding a charitable institution in Bloomfield Street, Moorfields, for the cure of diseases of the eye and ear in October 1804. This institution was opened for the reception of patients on 25 March 1805, but it was soon found to be necessary to limit its benefits to those who were affected with diseases of the eye. It still flourishes as the premier ophthalmic hospital in England, with the title of The Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital.

Saunders died on 9 Feb. 1810 at his residence in Ely Place. He was buried in St. Andrew's, Holborn, on 20 Feb. 1810. He married Jane Louisa Colkett on 7 April 1803.

He was an able surgeon and a skilful operator. His early death delayed the progress of ophthalmic surgery for many years in this country, though he transmitted the rudiments of his knowledge to William Adams, afterwards Sir William Rawson (1783–1827) [q. v.]

There is a half-length in oils by A. W. Devis in the board-room of the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital. Antony Carton engraved this portrait for the collected edition of Saunders's works on the eye. His works are: 1. ‘Anatomy of the Human Ear, with a Treatise of its Diseases, the Causes of Deafness and their Treatment,’ plates, fol. London, 1806; 2nd edit. 8vo, 1817; 3rd edit. 8vo, 1829: this work appears to have been the outcome of his residence with Astley Cooper, who, about 1800, was much interested in the anatomy and surgery of the ear. 2. ‘A Treatise on some Practical Points relating to Diseases of the Eye,’ plates, 8vo, London, 1811: this work was published posthumously, by his friend, Dr. J. R. Farre. A new edition in octavo appeared in 1816, at the expense of the institution and for the benefit of his widow. Both books contain interesting records of cases seen by Saunders.

[Memoir prefixed to Dr. Farre's edition of Saunders's Works; information from Mr. R. J. Newstead, secretary of the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital.]

D’A. P.