TitleCollection of John Lizars
DescriptionLizars was born in Edinburgh in either 1791 or 1792. He was educated at Edinburgh High School and at Edinburgh University. He was taught surgery and surgical anatomy by John Bell, an eminent surgeon and extramural teacher, to whom he had been apprenticed. From 1810 he acted as surgeon on board a man-of-war commanded by Admiral Sir Charles Napier, and he saw active service on the Portuguese coast during the Peninsular War, under Lord Exmouth. After returning to his home city in 1814, he was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and became a partner in surgical practice with John Bell and Robert Allan. He was highly successful, first in partnership and afterwards alone, as a teacher of anatomy and surgery. In 1828 he joined the Brown Square School, and in 1831 he was appointed to succeed John Turner as professor of surgery in the Royal College of Surgeons. Lizars defeated James Syme for this post, which was the cause of lasting enmity between the two men. Lizars also became a senior operating surgeon in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

A bold and accomplished operator, Lizars was the first to ligate the innominate artery for aneurysm, the first to cut the deeper branches of the Trigeminus nerve for the relief of neuralgia, and the first Scottish surgeon to excise the upper jaw. His most famous work, 'A system of anatomical plates of the human body', accompanied with descriptions, and physiological, pathological, and surgical observations, was published in five folio volumes between 1822 and 1826. The many plates, beautifully engraved by his brother William under Lizars's close direction, were intended as a practical guide to dissection and were extensively used by medical students for several decades. In 1825 Lizars published 'Observations on Extraction of Diseased Ovaria', which dealt with four cases of ovariotomy and Lizars was, nevertheless, the first British surgeon to perform the operation.

In 1838 Lizars published 'A System of Practical Surgery', which contained a bitter attack on James Syme, now professor of clinical surgery at the University of Edinburgh, accusing him of gross negligence in the course of an operation for anal fistula. Syme sued and won, albeit only with token damages. In 1839 the Royal College of Surgeons did not renew Lizars's appointment as professor of surgery, a move in which Syme's influence has been discerned, and he never held a public appointment again. In 1851, Lizars published a treatise on urethral stricture in which he criticized Syme's practice of external excision. Syme responded with a vehement attack on Lizars's personal and professional character. Lizars sued and lost, unfairly in the view of many contemporary observers. His private practice, already in difficulties from his bluntness of speech and considerable eccentricity of manner, declined.

Lizars died suddenly on 21 May 1860, at his residence, 15 South Charlotte Street, Edinburgh, possibly due to an overdose of laudanum.
[Source: Dictionary of National Biography]

Contents: Original anatomical drawings, c1820-c1825
Datec1820 - c1825
TermPost mortem
Extent1 volume
Add to My Items

    © 2022 Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, 9 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JQ
    Telephone: +44 (0)131 225 7324
    A charity registered in Scotland no. SC009465

    © CalmView