Joseph Toynbee

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Joseph Toynbee
Joseph Toynbee.jpg
Joseph Toynbee, published in 1910
Born 30 December 1815
Heckington, Lincolnshire
Died 7 July 1866 (1866-07-08) (aged 50)
Nationality British
Fields otologist
Known for pathological and anatomical studies of the ear
Influenced Arnold Toynbee

Joseph Toynbee (30 December 1815 – 7 July 1866) was an English otologist, whose career was dedicated to pathological and anatomical studies of the ear.

Personal life[edit]

Joseph Toynbee was born in Heckington, Lincolnshire in 1815. He was the second son of fifteen children of the wealthy land owner and farmer George Toynbee (1783–1865). His first wife and mother of Joseph was Elizabeth Cullen (1785–1829). After several years of private teaching, he attended King's Lynn Grammar School in Norfolk. At the age of seventeen he studied medicine. His first experience in medicine came when he was apprenticed to William Wade of the Westminster General Dispensary in Gerrard Street in Soho London. He studied anatomy under George Derby Dermott (1802–1847) at Hunterian Medical School at the Great Windmill Street, and later gained a reputation as a prosector. He was married, in August 1846, to Harriet (née Holmes), daughter of Nathaniel Holmes. They had nine children together, including economic historian Arnold Toynbee (1852–1883), and daughter Grace (née Toynbee), who married Percy Faraday Frankland in 1882.

Another son, Harry Valpy Toynbee (1861–1941), was the father of universal historian Arnold J. Toynbee, and archaeologist and art historian Jocelyn Toynbee.

He died in July 1866 while conducting experiments with prussic acid and chloroform as a remedy for tinnitus. Either one of these substances or their combination are responsible for his death.[1] He was buried at St Mary's Church, Wimbledon.


He performed studies on the functionality of the Eustachian tube and of the tympanic membrane [1] and tried to restore attempts, the tympanoplasty. When St. Mary’s Hospital was founded in Paddington, he a became an aural surgeon and a lecturer on ear diseases — his course of clinical lectures being published in 1855 and 1866.[1] During this time period he composed two major works: "A Descriptive Catalogue of Preparations Illustrative of the Diseases of the Ear" (1857), and "The Diseases of the Ear: Their Nature, Diagnosis and Treatment" (1860). From his many dissections of "deaf ears", he studied ankylosis of the stapes.[1]

Joseph Toynbee´s artificial tympanic membrane made of gutta percha attached to a silver wire stem.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in March 1842.[2]

Austrian otologist Adam Politzer (1835–1920) penned biographies in French (1905) and German (1914) honoring Toynbee, whom Politzer regarded as a major influence.


  • On the structure of the membrana tympani in the human ear. Richard Taylor, London 1851
  • On the use of an artificial membrana tympani in cases of deafness : dependent upon perforation or destruction of the natural organ. J. Churchill, London 1857
  • A Descriptive Catalogue of Preparations illustrative of the Diseases of the Ear in the Museum of Joseph Toynbee. J. Churchill, London 1857
  • The Diseases of the Ear: Their Nature, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Blanchard and Lea, 1860
  • Hints on the Formation of Local Museums. Robert Hardwicke, 1863


  1. ^ a b c d Hawkins J.E. (2004). "Sketches of Otohistory, Part 2: Origins of Otology in the British Isles: Wilde and Toynbee" (PDF). Audiol Neurootol. 9: 129–134. doi:10.1159/000077263. 
  2. ^ "Lists of Royal Society Fellows 1660–2007" (PDF). London: The Royal Society. Retrieved 18 July 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Toynbee genealogy[edit]

Beginning with Joseph, the Toynbees have been prominent in British intellectual society for several generations (note that this diagram is not a comprehensive Toynbee family tree):

Joseph Toynbee
Pioneering otolaryngologist
Harriet Holmes
Arnold Toynbee
Economic historian
Harry Valpy Toynbee
Gilbert Murray
Classicist and public intellectual
Lady Mary Howard
Arnold J. Toynbee
Universal historian
Rosalind Murray
Antony Harry Toynbee
Philip Toynbee
Writer and journalist
Anne Powell
Lawrence Toynbee
b. 1922
Josephine Toynbee
Polly Toynbee