John Eric Erichsen

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John Eric Erichsen in 1853
John Eric Erichsen in 1881

Sir John Eric Erichsen, 1st Baronet (19 July 1818 – 23 September 1896) was a British surgeon.

He was born in Copenhagen, the son of Eric Erichsen, a member of a well-known Danish banking family. He studied medicine at University College, London, and at Paris, devoting himself in the early years of his career to physiology, and lecturing on general anatomy and physiology at University College Hospital.

In 1844 he was secretary to the physiological section of the British Association, and in 1845 he was awarded the Fothergillian gold medal of the Royal Humane Society for his essay on asphyxia. In 1848 he was appointed assistant surgeon at University College Hospital, and in 1850 became full surgeon and professor of surgery, his lectures and clinical teaching being much admired; and in 1875 he joined the consulting staff. In June 1876 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.[1]

His Science and Art of Surgery (1853) went through many editions. He rose to be president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1880. From 1879 to 1881 he was president of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society. He was created a baronet in 1895, having been for some years surgeon-extraordinary to Queen Victoria. As a surgeon his reputation was world-wide, and he counts (says Sir W. MacCormac in his volume on the Centenary of the Royal College of Surgeons) among the makers of modern surgery. He was a recognized authority on concussion of the spine, and was often called to give evidence in court on apparent cases of railway spine.

Erichsen was also credited with this statement from 1873: "There cannot always be fresh fields of conquest by the knife; there must be portions of the human frame that will ever remain sacred from its intrusions, at least in the surgeon's hands. That we have already, if not quite, reached these final limits, there can be little question. The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will be forever shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon." (quoted in Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky (eds.), I Wish I Hadn't Said That: The Experts Speak and Get it Wrong! (2000), 31. (Cf. Clarke's First Law, from Profiles of the Future – see Wikipedia article, Clarke's Three Laws: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.")

He died at Folkestone in 1896. He had married on 10 September 1842 Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Captain Thomas Cole RN.


  1. ^ "Library and Archive Catalog". Royal Society. Retrieved 30 November 2010. 

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.