Edward Stephens

Scope and Content

The only two surviving manuscripts belonging to Stephens are of notes of the lectures of Benjamin Collins Brodie that he attended whilst he was a medical student in London.

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward Stephens (1804-1863) was born in Manchester in 1804 and following the death of his mother in 1817 was raised by his uncle William Jordan. In 1819, at the age of 15, he was apprenticed to his other uncle Joseph Jordan (1787-1873), described as a surgeon, apothecary, and man-midwife, who had opened his own anatomy school on Bridge Street just five years earlier. Following his apprenticeship Stephens went to London and in 1824 attended Joshua Brooks's School of Anatomy and subsequently became Assistant Demonstrator of Anatomy there. He took his diploma form the Apothecaries' Company on 26 May 1825 and passed the exam to become a member of the Royal College of Surgeons on 10 February 1826. After qualifying Stephens spent time on the continent, firstly in Paris and then at Leiden, where he took his MD on 15 October 1827. The dissertation he submitted for this degree was entitled Dissertatio Medica Inauguralis de Amaurosi Functionale. A year later he also gained the degree of doctor of surgery from Berlin on 14 August 1828, and is believed to be the first Englishman to have done so.

Stephens returned to Manchester in 1828 and immediately joined the staff of the Mount Street Medical School, run by his uncle Joseph Jordan, as a Demonstrator of Anatomy. He also ran a private practice from 68 Bridge Street, the premises being shared with William Blundstone and adjoining that of Joseph Jordan. In 1830 he was elected to the position of surgeon at the Manchester and Salford Lying-in Hospital, later St Mary's Hospital, a position he retained until his death. With the cholera outbreak of 1832, Stephens became a Cholera Medical Officer for the city and attended patients at Knott Mill, Jordan Street, which had been open specifically to treat the cholera patients. Several accounts note how Stephens was affected by the rapidity with which many of his patients died and the nature of the disease. In 1834, after his uncle's school merged with its rival, Stephens joined the staff of the Pine Street Medical School as a Demonstrator in Anatomy and a Lecturer in Pathology and Morbid Anatomy and in November 1835 he also became surgeon to the short-lived Hospital for the Treatment of Diseases of the Skin.

He resigned his position as Demonstrator in Anatomy during the 1840-1 session but retained his lectureship in pathology until 1850-1, when he retired from teaching altogether. When Jordan and Joseph Atkinson Ransome resigned their lectureship in surgery it was offered to Stephens but he declined owing to ill-health. Stephens continued to act as a very capable substitute lecturer and would step in to teach on diseases of women and children and on the practice of medicine when necessary. In 1845 he gave the opening address to the Pine Street Medical School. The Manchester Obstetrical Society was inaugurated in 1860 and Stephens was appointed to serve as one of its first vice-presidents, alongside James Bower Harrison (1814-1890).

In addition to his medical commitments Stephens was surgeon to the Zoological Gardens at Higher Broughton for a time where he was able to develop his skills in comparative anatomy. The Gardens eventually closed as they were deemed to be a nuisance to the neighbourhood.

Stephens had suffered from ill-health throughout much of his life and in addition to this suffered a dissection wound whilst working at the Pine Street School which led to a dangerous fever for nearly six months and a number of large abscesses which had a lasting effect. Stephens died on 14 September 1863 and was buried at Ardwick Cemetery, Manchester.


F.W. Jordan Life of Joseph Jordan Manchester 1904. The Royal College of Surgeons of England 'Stephens, Edward (1804-1863)' Plarr's Lives of the Fellows Online 2013. 'Obituary: Edward Stephens, M.D., F.R.C.S.' The Lancet 1863 82(2100) p.638.