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William Cheselden

William Cheselden (1688 – 1752)


First anatomy text written in English

At the age of just 22, following his medical training at St Thomas’ Hospital, William Cheselden established a course of 35 lectures in anatomy, comparative anatomy and animal economy (physiology). This became the first programme of pre-clinical training in Britain.

Appointed assistant surgeon at St Thomas's Hospital in 1718, Cheselden was made a principal surgeon within a year, enabling him to develop his own operative techniques, especially for bladder stone extraction. His new, faster procedure reduced operative mortality to less than 10 per cent.

His first major work, The Anatomy of the Human Body, was published in 1713 and was to become a standard anatomical text for more than a hundred years. Its popularity was partly due to the fact that it was written in English rather than Latin. Cheselden’s most important anatomical work was Osteographia or The Anatomy of Bones, published in 1733, the first full and accurate description of human osseus anatomy. The bones were shown life size and illustrated by Cheselden himself.

The poet Alexander Pope wrote of Cheselden, ‘He is the most noted and deserving man in the whole of the profession of Chirurgery: and has saved the lives of thousands by his manner of cutting for the stone’.