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The origins of the Medical School

Sir William Blizard (1743 - 1835) 

Sir William Blizard, surgeon to The London Hospital founded The London Hospital Medical College, England’s first hospital-based medical school, in 1785.

Born in Surrey in 1743, Blizard was the fourth child of auctioneer William Blizard and his wife Elizabeth. He received a very basic schooling but secured an apprenticeship to a surgeon in Mortlake, Surrey. He then became a pupil surgeon at The London Hospital and attended lectures given by leading clinicians such as Percival Pott and John Hunter.

Elected surgeon to The London Hospital in 1780, Blizard was among the first surgeons to tie the subclavian artery for axillary aneurism. He was also the first to suggest having separate wards at the hospital for medical and surgical patients. William Blizard was known for his philanthropy and public spirit which lead to him founding the first medical social work society, the Samaritan Society in 1791, to support patients of The London Hospital. The society is still active today and (now known as the Marie Celeste Samaritan Society) continues to work with the hospital’s patients and their families.

Knighted in 1803 and elected President of The Royal College of Surgeons in 1822, Sir William Blizard performed his last operation, an amputation of the thigh, in 1827 at the age of 84. Some of his personal effects and records are on display at The Royal London Hospital Museum in St Philip’s Church, Newark Street.


John Abernethy (1764 - 1831)

Born in the City of London in 1764, John Abernethy was educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School and then apprenticed to Sir Charles Blicke, a surgeon at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. He attended lectures given by William Blizard and Percival Pott and in 1787 succeeded Pott as Assistant Surgeon to the hospital.

Abernethy’s interest in training students developed and he began to advertise his own courses of lectures in anatomy. Due to the popularity of these lectures he requested that a lecture theatre be built by St Bartholomew’s Hospital. This theatre opened in 1791 and lay the foundations of the Medical College. His popularity as a lecturer and the development of his course for students at the hospital lead to the necessary expansion of facilities for teaching such as a library collection, museum and improvement to the lecture theatre in 1822.

He became a senior surgeon to the hospital in 1815 and a lecturer in anatomy for the Royal College of Surgeons in 1814. As a surgeon he is notable for his influential writings and for having performed the first successful ligation of the external iliac artery for aneurysm.

Abernethy retired in 1827 and died at his residence in Enfield in 1831.

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