Alfred Poland

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Sir Alfred Poland (1822 - August 21, 1872) was a 19th-century British surgeon. He is now best known for the first account of the condition later known as Poland syndrome, a congenital deformity now described as an underdevelopment or absence of the chest muscle (pectoralis) on one side of the body and webbing of the fingers (cutaneous syndactyly) of the hand on the same side (ipsilateral hand).

Poland described the disease that bears his name (Poland syndrome) in 1841, in a paper titled "Deficiency of the pectoral muscles" (Guy's Hosp. Rep. 6:191-193, 1841), in which he described the dissected body of Marc DeYoung, a deceased convict. He received the eponym more than a century later in 1962 through the recognition of British surgeon Patrick Wensley Clarkson (1911-1969) after he operated on a case similar to that of Poland.

Alfred Poland was a modest, retiring man, who was quite careless about his appearance. He was warned by the Treasurer to dress more decently and cleanly, but ignored this advice. He was known by his colleagues to be an excellent surgeon, but would time his operations at unusual hours so that few observed him. Perhaps for those reasons, he had a small practice.

Apart from his surgical dexterity he was renowned at the hospital for his encyclopedic knowledge and the excellence of his presentations, both oral and written. He was an extremely popular teacher, but his career was punctuated by recurrent illness so that he remarked that he was like a cat and had nine lives. After one severe bout of hemoptysis, his physician ordered him to bed, only to see him the next day doing the rounds with his students.

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