John Sims

Scope and Content

A transcript of John Sims' seven volumes of diaries covering the years 1811-1836. These describe his medical education in London, and subsequent practice as a physician and domestic life in the capital. The diaries provide invaluable information about making a living as a doctor in late Georgian London, as well as about the London Quaker community.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Sims, M.D., was born in Stockport ,Cheshire in 1792, the son of Ollive and Sarah Sims. Sims' father was a successful pharmacist, and the family were long-standing members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Sims was initially apprenticed to the Manchester surgeon, John Atkinson Ransome (1779-1837), before moving to London in 1811 to study at St Thomas' and Guy's Hospitals. He was briefly house surgeon at Manchester Infirmary (1813-15), before continuing his studies at the University of Edinburgh. Here he graduated doctor of medicine (thesis: D.M.I. de Cerebri Concussione, malisque inde oriundis) in 1818. He was admitted a Licentiate of the College of Physicians in 1819.

Sims returned to London to practise as a physician, originally living at 33 Lombard St. in the City, later at Corbet Court, off Bishopsgate, and finally moving to Cavendish Square, in the St Marylebone district. He was active in the London Quaker community, and familiar with many of its leading figures. Although primarily working in private practice, he was also a physician to the Kent and Surrey Eye Infirmary, and involved with the City and Finsbury dispensaries [which provided medicines for poorer patients] and the Margate Infirmary [founded by the Quaker physician John Lettsom]. In addition to patients in his local rea, Sims also ministered to Quakers across London and its outskirts, particularly in north-east London (there were numerous Quakers in Tottenham, Walthamstow and western Essex). In 1831, he was elected honorary physician to the Marylebone Infirmary, one of the most important parochial hospitals in the capital. He was also a member of the Senate of the University of London, and a member of the Council of the London Medico-Chirurgical Society. In later life, he also seems to have been active in the Royal College of Physicians. During the 1831/2 cholera outbreak, Sims was appointed to the central Board of Health at Somerset House, which coordinated London's response to the epidemic. Although Sims seems to have had an interest in head and brain injuries, he published relatively little.

John Sims married Lydia Dillwyn (also a Quaker) in April 1823. They had four children, two of whom survived childhood (Lydia Dillwyn 1824-5, William Dillwyn, b.1825, Anna Olivia b. 1827 and Arthur 1828-9). Sims' wife died on 18 March 1830. William Dillwyn Sims (1825-95) later became a prominent industrialist and co-owner of Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies, an Ipswich firm which manufactured agricultural machinery.

Sims died at his house in Cavendish Square 19th July, 1838, aged forty-six. His obituary recorded: "Dr. Sims was one of the most zealous and disinterested members of the medical profession to which he may be said to have fallen a sacrifice. About six years before he had a most dangerous illness produced by the absorption of poison while dissecting, during the prosecution of researches on morbid anatomy; a study in which he was much interested. From this severe attack he narrowly escaped. The attack, which proved fatal, was a malignant fever of a low typhoid character, which he is supposed to have caught at the St. Marylebone Infirmary." British and Foreign Medical Review, vol. vi, p. 594.]