Reference numberVF/12
Alternative reference numberVF12
TitlePortrait of Sir William Fergusson by Carlo Pellegrini
ArtistPellegrini, Carlo ['Ape']
Date17 December 1870
DescriptionVanity Fair cartoon titled 'There is no man of greater weight in his profession' featuring Sir William Fergusson. Full length, left profile. A raised hand in a shield appears in the top right hand corner of the cartoon. Number 17 of the 'Men of the Day' series.
InscriptionContentRecto inscription: 'VANITY FAIR. Dec. 17, 1870./ No. 111. MEN OF THE DAY No. 17./ “There is no man of greater weight in his profession"'
CaptionVanity Fair. No. 111
Men of the Day. No. 17.
Sir William Fergusson, Bart
Sir William Fergusson, Bart., F.C.S., F.R.S., the most eminent of living surgeons, is a native of Scotland, having been born at Prestonpans in 1808. He studied his profession under Knox, at Edinburgh, and continued to reside in that city in the days when the Wynds had their every-day horrors as well as their tradition of mystery, and people went stealthily about after nightfall as if their steps were haunted by ghosts and vampires. After his student days, Fergusson became the assistant of Drs. Knox and Turner, in the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and for several years devoted himself to the study of anatomy, under the direction of the former. Before turning his back on Scotland, besides taking the honours of his profession and holding the post of Assistant-Surgeon in the Infirmary, he had become a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. It is about thirty years since he came to London to take up the honourable appointment of Professor of Surgery in King's College. Yet he is still a genuine Scot, and never allows a year to pass without availing himself of the facilities of rail and boat to tread his native heather. The position he has taken in London is second to none of this generation in the specialities to which he has devoted himself. His countryman and predecessor, Liston, was not more skilful an operator, and there is no man who carries greater weight in the profession. The post of Examiner at the London University and that of Professor in the Royal College of Surgeons are sufficient proofs of his high standing; besides which he is Surgeon Extraordinary to the Queen, and a member of many learned bodies, including the Royal Society itself. He is the inventor or improver of many valuable instruments used in surgery, for which, however, it would be a little affected to profess any particular liking. His text book on the science of which he is so distinguished a Professor may be less objectionable to laymen, and his numerous special memoirs on such subjects as "Lithotomy" and "Aneurism" would be quite unobjectionable if some of their titles were suggestive of pleasanter associations. On the whole, for light fireside reading, Dickens must be considered a slight degree preferable. To say that Sir William Fergusson is the general favourite of medical students, who are proverbially a difficult class to please, is saying a good deal for a man of such ponderous intellect. Giants are always good-natured, and if Sir William has the bones (speaking figuratively) of a mastodon, he has the strength of fibre and delicacy of touch which bespeak a finely organised brain and a humane heart. It would be difficult to conceive of anything more delightful in the way of surgery than an intricate operation safely and skilfully performed by his hand. He was created a baronet in 1855.
Physical descriptionColoured lithograph on paper, mounted on card
Dimensions380mm x 263mm
NotesText is accompanying article from "Vanity Fair" (by Jehu Junior?)
Created Baronet in 1866, not 1855 as in the legend
Access statusOpen
ProvenancePurchased by the Royal Society from Patrick Pollak Antiquarian & Rare Books, September 1999
Related materialColour transparency, Box N101. Alan H Sykes 'The Doctors in Vanity Fair' 1995, page 10
Related records in the catalogueIM/001394
Fellows associated with this archive
NA7661Fergusson; Sir; William (1808 - 1877)1808 - 1877
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