The Clinical Society of London (1868-1907): President's Address.
Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medictne
President-J. D. ROLLESTON, M.D.
[October 8, 1943]
The Clinical Society of London (1868-1907)
j. D. ROLLESTON, M.D.
IN contrast with the practice of the parent society on only two previous occasions have
Presidential Addresses been given before the Clinical Section.
Barlow in 1907, which was the first to be delivered before the Section after the Clinical
Society became merged in the Royal Society of Medicine, while the other was Sir Anthony
Bowlby's Address in 1920 "On the Application of War Methods to Civil Practice."
A proposal to make a Section of Clinical Medicine and Surgery as well as of other sub-
jects, part of a Royal Society of Medicine dates back to 1868, when a committee to deal
with the matter was set up by the Royal M\edical and Chirurgical Society and was further
discussed the following year, but nothing came of it (Moore and Paget, 1905).
In 1892 Sir Andrew Clark, who was president of that Society, raised the question of
amalgamation again, but died before much progress was made in effecting union, and his
successor Mr., afterwards Sir, Jonathan Hutchinson was so opposed to it that the matter
was not resuscitated until 1905, when a revised scheme of union was made and two vears
later the union of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society with seventeen other Societies
was firmly established.
The term "Clinical Society of London " has been erroneouLsly applied in the First Series
of the Surgeon-General's Catalogue,
1882, 229, to a Clinical Society at Guy's Hospital
founded in 1836, also called "Clinical Report Society", whose proceedings were incorpora-
ted for many years in Guy's Hospital Reports.
According to James Blake Bailey, librarian of the Royal College of Surgeons, the forma-
tion of the Clinical Society of London, the parent of the Clinical Section of the Royal
Society of Medicine, was mainly due to Dr. Headlam Greenhow and Dr., afterwards Sir,
John Burdon Sanderson, who were both assistant physicians to the Middlesex Hospital,
the latter subsequently going to Oxford where he was appointed first Waynflete Professor
of Physiology and later Regius Professor of Medicine.
Greenhow's only monument consists of specimens illustrating Addison's disease and miner's
phthisis in the Museum of the Middlesex Hospital, but he was also the' author of the best
pre-antitoxin work on diphtheria and
medicine and surgery by the collection of cases, especially such as bear upon undeter-
mined questions in pathology and therapeutics."
appointed, and a sub-committee consisting of Dr., afterwards
Medical Inspector to the Privy Council, Mr. Callender, assistant surgeon to St. Bartholo-
mew's Hospital, Dr. Greenhow, Dr. Sydney Ringer, physician to University College Hos-
pital and Dr. Burdon Sanderson, was nominated to prepare a draft of rules for the
Society.The proposal met with immediate success.
it was reported that 110 original members had joined the Society.
the leading physician of the day, indeed
as author of a classical work on "The Principles and Practice of Physic," was appointed
first President with Dr. Burdon Sanderson and Mr. Callender as the first Secretaries.
first General Meeting was held on January 10, 1868, when Sir Thomas Watson delivered
his Presidential Address.
With the exception of the first session which was held from
Nlay, all the sessions were held from October to May, as in the Clinical
Section to-day, but took place twice a month, namely on the second and fourth Fridays.
The business of each Ordinary Meeting consisted in the receiving of communications
of two classes; the first relating to cases of which the records were complete, while those
of the second class were still under observation.
minutes, longer papers being regarded
Annual Meetings were held for the election of officers and other
members of the Council, and Special Meetings were convened by the President and
Council for the consideration of special business.
53, Berners Street in the rooms of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society,
One was that of Sir Thomas
According to Sir John Bland-Sutton
a valuable monograph on Addison's
A provisional committee was then
Sir, George Buchanan,
At a meeting on December 9, 1867,
Sir Thomas Watson,
it has been said of the century,
No communication was to exceed ten
as more suitable for the Royal Medical and
The meetings were successively held at
Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine
George Street, Hanover Square, in the rooms of the Medical Society of London, and again
in the rooms of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society at 20, Hlanover Square.
Cases shown were arawn from all departmeiits of medicine in the widest sense of the
Dermatology was represented ny Radcliffe Crocker, Colcott Fox, Tilbury Fox,
Maicolm Morris, ana J. J. Pr.ngle; Epidemiology by George Buchanan and Sir Richard
Thorne-Thorne; Neurology by Charlton bast.an, C. E. beevor, Thomas Buzzard,
William Gowers and Hugaslings Jackson; Ophtnalmology by E. Nettleship, George Lawson
and Brudenell Carter; Crthopoedics by J. Jackson Clarece, T. H. Opensfiaw and Bernard
Roth; Otorhinolaryngology by Sir Felix Semon, Sir Morell Mackenzie and Sir William
Dalby; Piediatrics by Sir lhomas Barlow, J. F. Goodhart and Sir G. F. Still, and Urology
by Sir Henry Thompson, Sr George Btickston Browne,.W. F. Teevan, Hurry Fenwick and
David Newman. As regards my own speciality of acute infectious diseases, the Transactionis
of the Clinical Society show that this subject received much more attention than it subse-
quently did at the Cl:nical Section, a,s is seen from the fact that during the forty years
of the Clinical Society's existence there were some fifty cases of acute infectious disease
recorded, particularly diphtheria,
fever and typhoid, as compared
fifteen in the Transactions of the Clinical Section betweep 1907 and 1942.
Undoubtedly the most interesting historical event connected with the Clinical Society
was the first medical demonstration held in this country of X-rays nearly fifty years ago.
Sir William Hale-White, who was honorary secretary at the time, said: "Early in 1896 the'
Society invited Professcr Sylvanus Thompson, the celebrated physicist, to tell its members
about the new discovery. A Special Meeting was held on March 30,- 1896, in the Society's
rooms in Hanover Square and was attended by nearly 400 members."
did not read a formal paper, the demanstration was not recorded in the Transact 'ons, but
short notices of the event appeared in the Lancet (1896, i, 9315) and British Medical Joturnal
(1896, i, 875) at the t-me.
Subsequently numerous cases illustrating the diagnostic and
therapeutic value of X-rays were reported at the meetings of the Society, and recorded in
Volumes 30 to 40 of its Transactions.
At the time of its amalgamation in the Royal Society of Medicine in 1907 the Clinical
Society numbered 572 ord-nary members and 16 honorary members, s-even of whom were
British, viz. Sir William Broadbent, Thomas Bryant, Lord Lister, Sir William Osler, Sir
Thomas Smith and Sir Samuel Wilks, and nine foreign, namely John Billings, Wilhelm
Erb, Friedrich von E-march, William Williams Keen, Theodor Kocher, Ernst von Leyden,
Just Lucas-Championniere, Costanzo Mazzoni and Weir Mitchell.
Sir Thomas Watson was the first and most eminent President of the Clinical Society, of
whom John Marshall in his Presidential Address before the Royal Medical and Chirur-
gical Society, of which Watson was a Vice-President, said: "All his titles must yield in
significance to that of being termed 'the greatest English Physician of the present century,'
a designation which he fairly earned by his professional eminence, his moral worth, his
sagacity, his integrity, his undeviating regard for the feelings and interests of his brethren,
and by his steady adhesion to those high principles of duty, which he so eloquently ex-
pounded in his well-known and often quoted 'Introductory Lecture,' and which made
him so fit an adviser on ethical questions relating to our profession."
titled "Sir Thomas Watson, President, Royal College of Physicians," to appear in a
forthcoming number of The Medical Press and Circular.)
Of the 19 other Presidents of the Society the most notable were Sir William Broadbent,
Sir Douglas Powell and Sir Frederick Tavlor among the physicians, and Sir James Paget,
Lord Lister, Thomas Bryant, Howard Marsh and Hugh Clutton among the surgeons.
The rules of the Society ordained that each President should hold office for two years
and that surgeons should alternate with physicians
Each President either in his first or second year of office delivered an Address-
a rule which was also faithfullv kept by the Societv though not subsequently by the Section.
Four Presidents indeed, viz. Dr. Greenhow, Sir William Gull, Sir Dyce Duckworth and
Sir Prescott Hewitt gave two AddresQes, the first being Inaugural and the second Vale-
The great majority of Presidential Addresses dealt with generalities, and only
three had definite titles, viz. those bv Sr Prescott Gariner Hewitt on Pyoemia in General
Practice (Trans. clin. Soc. Lond., 7, 1874), Joseph Lister, as he was then, on The Catgut
Ligature (I2, 1881), and H. H. Clutton on Adolescent or Late Rickets (39, 1907).
A remarkable custom in the practice of the Society, which, doubtless, owing to life
having become much more strenuous, is not now observed by the Section, was the fre-
quent formation of special committees to discuss various subjects or individual cases.
such committees undoubtedly the three
most important were
(2I, Suppl.), the periods of incubation and contagiousness of certain infectious diseases
(25.,.Suppl.) and the antitoxin of diphtheria (3i End). of which the members were Dr.
W. S. Church, Stephen Mackenzie, Sidnev Coupland. Hale-White, Sidney Ringer, William
Pasteur (Hon. Sec.), J. W. Washbourn. H. P. Hawkins and last but by no means least,
E. W. Goodall (3', 1898).
Other interesting subjects discussed by special committees
As the professor
(See my paper en-
a rule which was and still is rigidly
were The Temperature
(1882, I5, 261), Excision of Hip-joint (1881, 14, 223) and Joint Disease and Locomotor
Ataxia (20, 1887, 271).
Reference should also be made to the Supplement (22, 1889)
containing additional information concerning the cases reported in the first 21 volumes of
the Transactions and compiled by a committee of five physicians and five surgeons
appointed by the Council at the suggestion of the President, Mr. Christopher Heath.
George Richmond, R.A. pinx.
S. Cousins, sctulp.
SIR THOMAS WATSON, BART.
The financial position of the Society was eminently satisfactory throughout its course
and this is no doubt to be attributed to the business capacity of the treasurers, three of
whom-Greenhow, Heath and Ord-held office for ten or eleven successive years.
largest sum expended by the Society at one time was £300 for the publication of the
Committee's Report on Myxcedema, £100 of which, however, was defrayed by Dr. W. M.
Ord, the Chairman of the Committee.
No account of the activities of the Clinical Society would be complete without allusion
to the valuable author and subject indexes of the Transactions, occupying two volumes.
The first, which was compiled by Dr., afterwards Sir, Archibald E. Garrod, appeared in
1898, and dealt with the thirty years 1868-1897, while the second published in 1919
coveredi the nerind 1R8R-1907
BAILEY, J. B. (1895) Brit. Med. J. (ii), 102.
BLAND-SUTTON, Sir J. (1930) " The Story of a Surgeon," 59.
HALE-WHITE, W. (1930) Lancet (ii), 1370.
MARSHALL, J. (1883) Med. Chir. Trans., 66, 27.
MOORE, N., and PAGET, S. (1905) The Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London Centenary.
ROLLESTON, J. D. (1924-25) Proc. R. Soc. Med., T8 (Sect. Hist. Med., 1).
(1926-27) Proc. R. Soc. Med., 20 (Child. Sect., 55).
(1933-34) Proc. R. Soc. Med., 27, 177.
Carcinoma of CEsophagus: Resection and CEsophago-gastrostomy.-VERNON C. THOMPSON,
J. W., aged 53, Labourer.
Sudden onset of dysphagia.
cesophagus diagnosed by X-ray.