Lectures of Benjamin Collins Brodie

Scope and Content

Notes taken from the surgical lectures of Benjamin Collins Brodie (1783-1862) who taught at St George's Hospital, London. The inside covers of both volumes read 'A course of surgical lectures delivered by Mr Brodie -1824 -Oct 1st copied by E Stephens during two courses in 1824 and 1825'. Additional notes on the inside cover indicate that they were acquired by the Manchester Medical Society in November 1863 and subsequently allocated the reference GO 80 viz. their 1890 library catalogue.

Administrative / Biographical History

Benjamin Collins Brodie was born in Wiltshire on 8 June 1783, the son of Peter Bellinger Brodie (1742-1804) and Sarah Collins (1755-1847). He was educated at home by his father, who had attended Charterhouse School and Worcester College, Oxford, with the assistance of his older siblings. In 1801 Brodie went to London for the first time where he attended the anatomy lectures of John Abernethy and chemistry lectures of Alexander Crichton. The following year he returned to study under James Wilson at the Great Windmill Street School where he practiced dissection, and also studied the materia medica with William Clifton, an apothecary on Little Newport Street. In 1803 Brodie formally entered St George's Hospital as a pupil of Sir Everard Home and was appointed house surgeon there in May 1805, later becoming a demonstrator to the anatomical school. In 1808 he was appointed assistant surgeon and in 1822 was made senior surgeon, a role he held until his resignation in 1840.

Brodie was admitted as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1805 and also became an elected member of the elite Society for the Improvement of Medical and Chirurgical Knowledge in 1808 until its official dissolution in 1818. Following his studies under Home, he continued to assist him in private operations in addition to assisting his research in comparative anatomy with William Clift at the Hunterian Museum. Brodie also continued his studies at the Great Windmill Street School and demonstrated alongside Wilson up until 1812. Brodie began to deliver an annual course of surgical lectures at Great Windmill Street in 1808 and continued to do so until 1830. From 1819 to 1823 he was professor of comparative anatomy and physiology at the Royal College of Surgeons. Brodie also established his own private practice in Sackville Street, Piccadilly in 1809.

Brodie's interests extend beyond surgery and he embraced physiology and psychology too, and in the field of surgery was particularly noted for his expertise in diagnosis. A number of different experiments and published papers demonstrated his various discoveries, many of which he lent his name to and which include: the theory that animal heat is under nervous control, chronic synovitis with joint degeneration (Brodie's disease), a technique for trephining the tibia in cases of chronic inflammation (Brodie's abscess), a technique for the correction of abnormalities in the anal sphincter (Brodie's abscess), and the identification of a particular form of breast tumour (Brodie's tumour). Some of his major publications include Diseases of the Joints (1818), Diseases of the Urinary Organs (1832), Local Nervous Diseases (1837), Lectures Illustrative of Various Subjects in Pathology and Surgery (1846), and Psychological Enquiries (1854).

Brodie remained active in professional circles throughout his career and was a member of the Royal Society's Assistant Society for the Improvement of Animal Chemistry, the Institute of France, the Academy of Medicine of Paris, and the Royal Academy of Sciences of Stockholm. He also served as president of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society in 1839 and president of the Royal College of surgeons in 1844. He strongly opposed quackery and supported the need for reforms in the medical profession including the introduction of a regulatory body such as the General Medical Council, and became their first president in 1858. He became the king's personal surgeon in 1828, was made sergeant-surgeon in 1832, and was made a baronet in 1834.

In 1816 he married Anne Sellon (1797-1861) and together they had four children. Brodie died at Broome Park on 21 October 1862.


W.H. Brock, 'Brodie, Sir Benjamin Collins, first baronet (1783-1862)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/3484, accessed 29 June 2016]. The Royal College of Surgeons of England, 'Brodie, Sir Benjamin Collins (1783-1862)', Plarr's Lives of the Fellows Online, created July 2005, modified July 2012.Autobiography of the Late Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie 2nd Edition, London, 1865.