Joseph Jordan is best-known as Manchester's first systematic teacher of anatomy. He was born in Manchester in 1787 and was apprenticed to John Bill of MRI at the age of fifteen, later moving to study with Mr Simmons. He completed his medical studies at Edinburgh University. In 1805 Jordan joined the Army and remained there until 1811. He came to Manchester to practice in 1812, and soon began to teach anatomy. He eventually set up a dissecting room in Bridge Street in the centre of the city. Jordan was the first provincial teacher whose teaching was recognized by the London examining bodies: his lectures in anatomy and surgery were recognized by the Society of Apothecaries in 1817, and the College of Surgeons in 1821. In 1826 he set up a new medical school in Mount Street.
Mount Street closed in 1834, after facing serious opposition from the Pine St School. Jordan had been promised election to the MRI if he closed the school; unfortunately Jordan failed in his first attempt to be elected surgeon. But in 1835 he was successful. He remained on the staff of the Infirmary until 1866. Jordan was a noted medical philanthropist; he helped set up the Lock Hospital in 1819, where he worked as consulting surgeon, and he took an active interest in medical welfare of the Manchester poor.