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Royal College of Surgeons of England

Guthrie, George James (1785-1856)


Reference code(s): GB 0114 MS0270

Held at: Royal College of Surgeons of England

Title: Guthrie, George James (1785-1856)

Date(s): 1841-1856

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 2 items

Name of creator(s): Guthrie | George James | 1785-1856 | surgeon


Administrative/Biographical history:

George James Guthrie was born in London, in 1785. He was apprenticed to Dr Phillips, a surgeon in Pall Mall. He attended the Windmill Street School of Medicine, and was one of those into whose arms William Cruikshank fell when he was delivering his last lecture on the brain in 1800. Guthrie served as hospital mate at the York Hospital, Chelsea from 1800-1801. Surgeon General Thomas Keate issued an order that all hospital mates must be members of the newly formed College of Surgeons. Aged 16, Guthrie was examined by Keate himself, and made such a good impression that he was posted to the 29th Regiment immediately. He accompanied the 29th Regiment to North America as Assistant Surgeon, remained there until 1807, then returned to England with the regiment and was immediately ordered out to the Peninsula. He served there until 1814, seeing much service and earning the special commendation of the Duke of Wellington. Aged 26, he acted as Principal Medical Officer at the Battle of Albuera. He was appointed Deputy Inspector of Hospitals in 1812, but the Medical Board in London refused to confirm the appointment because of his youth. He was placed on half pay at the end of the campaign, and began to practise privately in London. He attended the lectures of Charles Bell and Benjamin Brodie at the Windmill Street School of Medicine. He went to Brussels after the Battle of Waterloo, in 1815, where he carried out a number of operations including tying the peroneal artery by cutting down upon it through the calf muscles, known afterwards as 'Guthrie's bloody operation'. He returned to London and was placed in charge of two clinical wards at the York Hospital, with a promise that the most severe surgical cases would be sent to him. He was instrumental in establishing an Infirmary for Diseases of the Eye in 1816, which became 'The Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital', situated in King William Street, Strand, and removed to Broad Street, Bloomsbury, in 1928. Guthrie was appointed Surgeon and remained attached to the hospital until 1838, when he resigned in favour of his son, C W G Guthrie. He was elected Assistant Surgeon to Westminster Hospital in 1823, becoming full surgeon in 1827. He resigned his office in 1843, again to make way for his son. At the Royal College of Surgeons Guthrie was a Member of Council from 1824-1856; a Member of the Court of Examiners from 1828-1856; Chairman of the Midwifery Board in 1853; Hunterian Orator in 1830; Vice-President five times; and President in 1833, 1841, and 1854. He was Hunterian Professor of Anatomy, Physiology, and Surgery from 1828-1832. He was elected FRS in 1827. He died in 1856.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of George James Guthrie, 1841-1856, comprising a letter from Guthrie to William Clift, 15 Jun 1841, requesting a skeleton hung up in the theatre. Clift has noted at the end of the letter "This note came a week after the date"; and an obituary for Guthrie, from the Illustrated London News, 10 May 1856.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

As outlined in Scope and Content.

Conditions governing access:

By written appointment only.

Conditions governing reproduction:

No photocopying permitted.

Physical characteristics:

Finding aids:

Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (1928) by Victor G Plarr.


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:


Archival history:

According to Plarr's Catalogue of Manuscripts (1928), this collection includes a letter addressed to a Mr or Dr Fergusson, dated "Merida, August 27 1809". This is thought to be either James Fergusson [later General Sir James Fergusson] or William Fergusson MD (1773-1847), Inspector of Hospitals, Portugal, in 1809. This was missing in Jun 2007 [former location MSS Box 1 (7)].

Immediate source of acquisition:


Existence and location of originals:

Existence and location of copies:

Related material:

A portrait of George James Guthrie, by Henry Room (1802-1850), and a bust of Guthrie by E Davis, were presented by Miss Guthrie, his daughter, in 1870; two copies of a mezzotint from a plate engraved by William Walker, after Room. Published by the London Publishing Co on 10 May 1853; and a pencil sketch of Guthrie lecturing on emphysema on 6 May 1830, titled Mr Guthrie's 11th Lecture (written by William Clift), and initialled T M S (possibly by T Madden Stone, Library Assistant in 1832).

A crayon portrait of Guthrie, by Count D'Orsay, is located in the Westminster Hospital.

Publication note:



Archivist's note: Compiled by Anya Turner.

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: Sep 2008

Letter writing | Writing | Communication skills | Communication process
Obituaries | Documents | Information sources
Skeleton | Musculoskeletal system | Anatomy | Biology
Surgery | Medical sciences
Correspondence x Letter writing

Personal names
Clift | William | 1775-1849 | museum curator and scientific illustrator
Guthrie | George James | 1785-1856 | surgeon

Corporate names
Hunterian Museum
Illustrated London News
Royal College of Surgeons of England