Stevenson, Thomas (DNB12)

STEVENSON, Sir THOMAS (1838–1908), scientific analyst and toxicologist, born on 14 April 1838 at Rainton in Yorkshire, was second son and fourth of the six children of Peter Stevenson, a pioneer in scientific farming. Thomas, a first cousin of the father, was an author and publisher, whose business at Cambridge was acquired in 1846, a year after his death, by Daniel and Alexander Macmillan, the founders of the publishing firm of Macmillan. His mother was Hannah, daughter of Robert Williamson, a banker and coachmaker of Ripon.

Stevenson, educated privately and at Nesbit's school of chemistry and agriculture, studied scientific farming for a year with his father and then in 1857 became a medical pupil under Mr. Steel of Bradford. In 1859 he entered the medical school of Guy's Hospital, graduating M.B. in 1863 and M.D. at London in 1864. In the earlier examinations he gained the scholarship and gold medal in organic chemistry (1861), in forensic medicine, and in obstetric medicine (1863). In 1864 he became M.R.C.P. and in 1871 F.R.C.P. London. In 1863 he started private practice in Bradford, but after a year returned to Guy's Hospital, where he became successively demonstrator of practical chemistry (1864–70), lecturer on chemistry (1870–98), and lecturer on forensic medicine (1878–1908), succeeding in both lectureships Alfred Swaine Taylor [q. v.]. He was analyst to the home office from 1872 to 1881, when he was appointed senior scientific analyst. That office he held till death. He was also analyst to the counties of Surrey and Bedfordshire and the boroughs of St. Pancras and Shoreditch, and medical officer of health to St. Pancras. He served as president of the Society of Medical Officers of Health, of the Society of Public Analysts, and of the Institute of Chemistry. Pre-eminent as a scientific toxicologist, Stevenson was best known to the public as an expert witness in poisoning cases, especially in the well-known cases of Dr. G. H. Lamson (aconitine) in 1882; Mrs. Maybrick (arsenic) in 1889; Dr. Thomas Neill or Cream (strychnine) in 1892; George Chapman (antimony) in 1903; Miss Hickman (morphine) in 1903; Arthur Devereux (morphine) in 1905. He was an admirable witness, his evidence being so accurately and carefully prepared that cross-examination strengthened rather than weakened its effect. He was knighted in 1904.

Stevenson died on 27 July 1908, and was buried at Norwood cemetery. He married in 1867 Agnes, daughter of George Maberly, a solicitor of London, and had issue two sons and five daughters. His portrait was painted and is in possession of his family. A cartoon portrait appeared in 'Vanity Fair' in 1899.

Stevenson edited and greatly enlarged the 3rd edition of A. Swaine Taylor's 'Principles and Practice of Medical Jurisprudence' (1883), and together with Sir Shirley Murphy edited a treatise on 'Hygiene and Public Health' (1894). He made eighteen contributions to the 'Guy's Hospital Reports.'

[Brit. Med. Journ. 1908, ii. 361; information from son, C. M. Stevenson, M.D., G. A. Macmillan, and F. Taylor, M.D., F.R.C.P.]

H. D. R.