Sampson Gamgee

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Dr Joseph Sampson Gamgee

Dr Joseph Sampson Gamgee, MRCS, FRSE (17 April 1828, Livorno, Italy – 18 September 1886) was a surgeon at the Queen's Hospital (later the General Hospital) in Birmingham, England. He pioneered aseptic surgery (having once shared lodgings with Joseph Lister), and, in 1880 invented Gamgee Tissue, an absorbent cotton wool and gauze surgical dressing. He was known as Sampson Gamgee.

He was the son of Joseph Gamgee, a veterinary surgeon and the sibling of Dr John Gamgee, inventor and Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Dick Veterinary College, Edinburgh and Dr Arthur Gamgee, Fullerian Professor of Physiology and Comparative Anatomy at The Royal Institution of Great Britain, London. Sampson's son Dr Leonard Parker Gamgee was also a renowned surgeon of Birmingham and his nephew (son of his sister Fanny Gamgee) was Prof Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860-1948).

In 1873 he founded the Birmingham Hospital Saturday Fund which raised money for various hospitals in Birmingham from overtime earnings given by workers on nominated Hospital Saturdays. It was the first such fund to raise money in this way for multiple hospitals. Sampson was also the first president of the Birmingham Medical Institute.

He gave his name (indirectly, via the tissue) to the hobbit Sam Gamgee in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. There is a blue plaque commemorating him on the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and a library is dedicated to him in the Birmingham Medical Institute.


  • 65 Years' History of the Birmingham Saturday Holiday Fund 1873-1938, Journal Printing Office, Cannon Passage, Birmingham, 1938

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