Lectures on Midwifery by Thomas Denman

  • Reference
      GB 133 MMM/16/2/4
  • Dates of Creation
      n.d. [177-?]
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      1 volume, 108 folios Both boards have come away, the spine is split and several pages are loose.

Scope and Content

The volume has the original pagination pp.1-199 and the writing is on the recto and verso throughout. It bears the bookplate of the Manchester Medical Society which indicates that the volume was donated to them by Clay in 1861 and was subsequently allocated the reference GO 2067 viz. their 1890 library catalogue. The name of the volume's creator appears to be in the top right corner of the title page but unfortunately the corner of the page has been lost and all that can be discerned now is the first name Thomas.

A contents page in the front indicates that the following topics are covered: introduction; bones of the pelvis; external organs of generation; internal organs of generation; menstruation in general; painful menstruation; obstructed menstruation [amenorrhoea]; conception; progress of uterine gestation; touching; process of labour; management of natural labours; difficult labours; forceps cases; application of the forceps [surgical instruments]; crotchet cases; preternatural presentations [breech presentation]; observations on turning; complex labours; diseases and management after delivery; diseases of children; on tying the navel string [umbilical cord]; retroverted uterus; dropsy of the perineum.

None of the lectures are individually numbered or dated and no attempt is made to indicate where each lecture begins and ends. However, clear subject headings are given at the top of every page and the content is divided by these subject headings rather than lecture numbers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Denman was born in Bakewell, Derbyshire on 27 June 1733 the son of local apothecary, John Denman. In 1753 he went to London where he attended medical lectures at St George's Hospital before acquiring a position as surgeon's mate in the Royal Navy, rising to the position of surgeon in 1757. He spent much of his time on board the HMS Edgar until he eventually left the service in 1763. At this point he returned to London where he resumed his studies, which included attending the midwifery lectures of William Smellie. He received his MD from the University of Aberdeen in July 1764 and a failed attempt to establish himself in practice in Winchester, Hampshire saw him return to London again.

With diminishing prospects Denman considered re-joining the Navy but instead obtained the surgeoncy to one of the royal yachts, which served to supplement the income from his private practice. He also soon began lecturing in midwifery alongside William Osborn (1736-1808) and continued to do so for nearly 15 years, all the while gaining a high reputation. On 5 October 1769 he was appointed physician-accoucheur to the Middlesex Hospital, a role he held until 1783 when he resigned his role in favour of his increasingly large private practice. 1783 also saw him admitted as a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians.

Denman published a number of works on the subjects of obstetrics and the diseases of women and children including Essays on the Puerperal Fever and on Puerperal Convulsions (1768), Aphorisms on the application and use of the forceps, and vectis; on preternatural labours, on labours attended with haemorrhage, and with convulsions (1783), On Preternatural Labours (1786), An Introduction the the Practice of Midwifery (1794 & 1795), and Observations on the Cure of Cancers (1810). His authority on the subject is also believed to have made the practice of inducing premature labour in cases of a narrow pelvis to avoid risks to the mother a general one in England.

Denman was married to Elizabeth Brodie (1746-1833) and had two daughters and one son, Thomas Denman (1779-1854), who became Lord Chief Justice of England. Denman died on 26 November 1815 at his house in Mount Street, London.


Ornella Mosucci, 'Denman, Thomas (1733-1815)' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2007 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/7494, accessed 24 June 2016] William Munk, 'Thomas Denman', Munk's Roll, Volume II, p.333. Robert Woods & Chris Galley Mrs Stone & Dr Smellie: Eighteenth Century Midwives and their Patients, Liverpool University Press, 2014.