Notes of Lectures by Osborn & Clarke

  • Reference
      GB 133 MMM/16/2/3
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      3 items

Scope and Content

The three volumes were donated to the Manchester Medical Society by Clay in 1861 as evidenced by the bookplate in each of them. This also indicates that they were allocated the reference GO 2068 viz. their 1890 library catalogue. However the society has labelled them vols. 1, 2, and 3 in the inside cover as part of a single series apparently in error. Volume 1 [MMM/16/2/3/1] has been labelled as vol. 2, volume 2 [MMM/16/2/3/2] has been labelled vol. 3, and the final volume [MMM/16/2/3/3] has been labelled vol.1. The content of MMM/16/2/3/2 clearly follows on form that of MMM/16/2/3/1 and these two volumes seem to belong together however the content of the final volume appears quite separate from the first two. Whilst it is in the same hand and still the same subject matter the contents jump, and the numbering of lectures and the page numbering does not follow on. The final volume is also in a slightly different binding and there is some repetition in content with MMM/16/2/3/2.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Osborn was born in London in 1736 and studied medicine at St George's Hospital, eventually obtaining the degree of MD in 1777 from St Andrews University. Following his studies at St George's Osborn practised as a surgeon for several years before pursuing midwifery, and was elected man-midwife to the lying-in hospital in Shore Street. On 22 December 1783 he was admitted to the Royal College of Physicians as a licentiate in midwifery.

In 1770, together with Thomas Denman, Osborn established a private school of midwifery at Queen Street, Golden Square and the two men taught together for approximately twelve years. A professional disagreement over the use of the forceps versus the vectis saw them part ways and Osborn lectured alone for a period before joining together with John Clarke in 1791. Osborn also expressed strong views against the caesarean section and also against the division of the symphysis pubis [symphysiotomy].

As well as teaching Osborn also ran a large and successful private practice and published a number of works on midwifery. These included Essays on the Practice of Midwifery, in Natural and Difficult Labours, 1792 and An Essay on Laborious Parturition, 1783. He died at his home near Dover on 15 August 1808.

John Clarke was born in 1758 in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire where his father was a surgeon. His brother was Sir Charles Mansfield Clarke (1782-1857) and followed John into the medical profession and ultimately, midwifery. Clarke began his medical education at St George's Hospital, London where he studied under such eminent teachers as William Hunter, John Hunter, George Fordyce, William Osborn, and Thomas Denman. He had the joined the Company of Surgeons in 1779, prior to commencing his studies at St George's, but later left the Company in favour of becoming a licentiate in midwifery at the Royal College of Physicians in 1787, which allowed him to specialise in obstetrics. He was awarded an MD from the University of Frankfurt on 20 October 1791.

He established himself in private practice and as a lecturer in midwifery in Chancery Lane. Clarke was soon very successful and his lectures were praised for being clear and informative. Following his marriage to Elizabeth Vaughton in 1789 Clarke moved to Queen Street, Golden Square in Westminster, where in 1790 he began to lecture alongside William Osborn. From 1805 to 1812 Clarke's brother also joined him in delivering lectures, and his brother eventually took over the large part of his practice so that he could focus his energies on the diseases of women and children. Clarke also held public appointments as physician to the General Lying-in Hospital on Store Street, physician to the Asylum for Female Orphans, and lecturer on midwifery at St Bartholomew's Hospital.

Clarke was active in professional medical societies including the Lyceum Medicum Londinense and the Medical and Chirurgical Society of London and published a number of papers during his career. Some of his main publications included An Essay on the Epidemic Disease of Lying-in Women of the Years 1787 and 1788, 1788, Practical Essays on the Management of Pregnancy and Labour, 1793, and Commentaries on Some of the Most Important Diseases of Children, 1815. He was also editor of the three editions of The London Practice of Midwifery, published anonymously between 1803 and 1811.

Clarke died from stomach cancer on 31 August 1815 and was buried near his country home of Wigginton Lodge, Staffordshire. He left all his property and belongings to his wife.


Robert Woods & Chris Galley Mrs Stone & Dr Smellie: Eighteenth Century Midwives and their Patients, Liverpool University Press, 2014. Hilary Marland, 'Osborn, William (1736-1808)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, [, accessed 24 June 2016]. Kenneth Hunter, 'Clarke, John (bap.1760, d.1815)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, [, accessed 24 June 2016]. William Munk, 'William Osborn' Munk's Roll Volume II, p.336. William Munk, 'John Clarke' Munk's Roll Volume II, p.339. Walter Radcliffe, Milestones in Midwifery and the Secret Instrument: the birth of the midwifery forceps, Norman Publishing, 1989.