Edward Berdoe

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Edward Collis Berdoe
Born7 March 1836
St Pancras, London, England
Died2 March 1916 (aged 79)
Hackney, London, England
Nationality United Kingdom
Known forMedicine, author

Dr Edward Collis Berdoe (1836–1916) was an English physician and author who wrote on the works of Robert Browning and campaigned against medical experiments on human patients and animals.

Medical career[edit]

Born in St Pancras, London on 7 March 1836, he was educated at Regent's Park College,[1] presumably as a lay student rather than a candidate for the Baptist ministry. While working in an apothecary's shop in Reading, he took up photography. An Edward Berdoe is recorded as serving in a medical capacity during the Crimean War, and later in the American Civil War which ended in 1865,[2] but this is unlikely to be the subject of this article, who was developing his career in pharmacy and raising a family in the UK during those periods.[3]

To gain medical qualifications, he studied at the Royal London Hospital, being admitted LRCPE (Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh) and LSA (Licentiate of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries) in 1876,[4] followed by MRCS (Member of the Royal College of Surgeons) the next year. The rest of his life he spent as a general practitioner in Hackney, where he died just short of his 80th birthday, on 2 March 1916.[1]

Literary researches[edit]

In the 1880s Berdoe became a leading student of the works of Robert Browning, being on the committee of the London Browning Society from its beginning in 1881 to its dissolution in 1894.[5] Over the years he published a series of works to help readers understand the poet's ideas, one example of many being The Browning Cyclopaedia,[6] which was reprinted in England and the United States during the 20th century.

Patient and animal welfare[edit]

Two aspects of current medical practice drew him into campaigning for change in the treatment of patients and animals. One was the use in teaching hospitals of poor patients, who could not afford private treatment, for experiments. This he considered callous and cruel. Against this system, he wrote a novel under the pseudonym Aesculapius Scalpel[7][8] and a follow-up[9] which exposed the abuses dramatically.[1]

An allied subject on which he felt passionately and wrote extensively was animal welfare, in particular vivisection. Here he served as editor of the magazine The Zoophilist, published by what became the National Anti-Vivisection Society. Among other works, collaborated in 1893 with the Society's founder Frances Power Cobbe[1] on an exposé called Nine Circles, or The Torture of the Innocent.[10]


In 1858 he married in Hastings Mary Inskipp.[11] They had two sons and four daughters. A lifelong teetotaller and vegetarian, his immersion in the writings of Browning led him to seek greater knowledge of the Roman Catholic church, which he joined in 1890.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d "Obituary: Dr. Edward Berdoe", British Medical Journal, 1 (2880): 398–399, 11 Mar 1916, PMC 2347105
  2. ^ Readipop, retrieved 30 Sep 2016
  3. ^ Derrett, Christopher; Gibbs, Denis (2013). "Edward Berdoe: a doctor with a dilemma?". Hackney History. 17: 10–18.
  4. ^ Society of Apothecaries Archives, London
  5. ^ "Berdoe, Edward". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 138.
  6. ^ Berdoe, Edward (1964), The Browning cyclopaedia. A guide to the study of the works of Robert Browning. With copious explanatory notes and references on all difficult passages (2 ed.), London: G. Allen
  7. ^ Berdoe, Edward (1887), St. Bernard's: the romance of a medical student, London: Swann Sonnenschein, Lowery & Co.
  8. ^ [1]. Catalogue 187 of Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers, London. Accessed June 10, 2010.
  9. ^ Berdoe, Edward (1888), Dying scientifically: a key to St. Bernard's, London: Swann Sonnenschein, Lowery & Co.
  10. ^ Nine Circles; or, the torture of the innocent, being records of vivisection, English and Foreign, London: Swann Sonnenschein, Lowery & Co., 1893
  11. ^ a b <The Tablet, 11 March 1916, p. 23, retrieved 30 Sep 2016

External links[edit]