Thomas Hodgkin.
Abstract: In the general field of medicine, more so than in any other occupation; we use eponyms in our everyday work. An eponym comes from the Greek word for a name. It is used, often, to commemorate the person or persons responsible for the first description of a disease, discoverer of cause of an illness, or the developer of an operation or intervention. Eponymous terms are used constantly in the operating suite area; we have already published in this journal a whole series of eponyms devoted to surgical instruments and appliances - Spencer Wells' forceps, Cushing's clips and so on.
Author: Ellis, Harold
Pub Date: 04/01/2012
Publication: Name: Journal of Perioperative Practice Publisher: Association for Perioperative Practice Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Association for Perioperative Practice ISSN: 1750-4589
Issue: Date: April, 2012 Source Volume: 22 Source Issue: 4
Accession Number: 293545454
Full Text: In the general field of medicine, more so than in any other occupation; we use eponyms in our everyday work. An eponym comes from the Greek word for a name. It is used, often, to commemorate the person or persons responsible for the first description of a disease, discoverer of cause of an illness, or the developer of an operation or intervention. Eponymous terms are used constantly in the operating suite area; we have already published in this journal a whole series of eponyms devoted to surgical instruments and appliances - Spencer Wells' forceps, Cushing's clips and so on.

Every day we use the eponymous names of many diseases and injuries, but how many of you know much about the person behind the name? These men (and I am sorry to say that most eponyms concerning diseases to date apply to men), are to be the subject of the next of my series of articles. Which condition better to start with than Hodgkin's disease? A term used daily throughout hospital practice and well familiar to, and feared by, the general public.

Thomas Hodgkin was born in 1798 in London, the son of a Quaker tutor of mathematics and classics. In 1819, Thomas registered as a pupil of the United Hospitals of St. Thomas's and Guy's, which, in those days, stood on either side of St. Thomas's Street in Southwark. In addition to studying in London, Hodgkin worked in Edinburgh, where in 1821 he published a paper on the functions of the spleen, and spent the years of 1821 and 1822 in Paris. Here the young student spent much time with Rene Laennec, the inventor of the stethoscope, at the Necker Hospital (they spoke to each other in their common language - Latin!).

The young student, on returning to Guy's, presented a paper on this new method of investigating lung disease, and brought one of the first stethoscopes, in those days a simple wooden tube, back to England.

In 1823 Hodgkin qualified MD in Edinburgh, his thesis, in Latin, being on the mechanism of absorption of nutrients in animals. In 1825 he was appointed physician to the London Dispensary, situated in the East End of London and dealing with the indigent poor of that neighbourhood. At the same time, he was appointed Lecturer in Morbid Anatomy, (the old name for Pathology), at Guy's Hospital Medical School, which had just split from St. Thomas's, and Curator of the Museum.

At the time of his appointment, there was little to find in the Guy's museum - most of the specimens, especially the magnificent collection left by the surgeon Sir Astley Cooper, remained at the St. Thomas's site. Hodgkin set to work from scratch and by 1829 had 1,677 carefully catalogued specimens on view, arranged to show the effects of particular diseases on different organs - the arrangement that pertains to most medical museums today. As well as curating the museum, Hodgkin's duties involved lecturing to the students. In his very first lecture he stressed the importance of pathology as the basis of the study of disease.

In 1832, Hodgkin published a paper entitled 'On some morbid appearances of the absorbent glands and spleen' in the Journal of the Medical and Chirurgical Society. In this he described six cases on whom he had performed autopsies at Guy's; a fatal condition with widespread enlargement of lymph nodes and of the spleen, which he differentiated from tuberculosis. To this he added a note on a similar case reported by Lugol in Paris.

These observations were made before the era of modern microscopy - although indeed Hodgkin used an early microscope and described the biconcave nature of red blood corpuscles. In 1926, the pathologist Herbert Fox opened the bottles containing Hodgkin's specimens and submitted them to histological examination. Three satisfied the modern microscopic definition of 'Hodgkin's disease', one had the features of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, one showed evidence of tuberculosis and the sixth was syphilitic.

It must be said that Hodgkin's paper attracted little interest at the time of publication. However, in 1856, Sir Samuel Wilks, physician at Guy's, published a paper in the Guy's Hospital Reports describing 36 cases of 'Lardaceous disease and some allied affections', with generalised lymph node involvement and splenic enlargement. In 1865 he followed this up by a report of a further 60 cases in the same journal. Wilks pointed out that Hodgkin had noted this syndrome previously and generously gave Hodgkin the credit for discovering the condition.

Disappointed and dejected by failure to be appointed to the medical staff at Guy's Hospital, Hodgkin resigned his appointment as museum curator in 1837 and thereafter devoted himself to charitable work. In 1866 he accompanied his old friend Sir Moses Montefiore on a mission of relief to the Jews resident in Palestine, then under Turkish rule. He died in Jaffa, probably of dysentery. Today, he lies buried in the Anglican cemetery of Jaffa, now a suburb of modern Tel Aviv.

If you have the chance, do visit the Gordon Museum at Guy's Hospital. Very appropriately you will find it in the Hodgkin Building in the Medical School. There you will find, among a wealth of other fascinating exhibits, Hodgkin's original specimens!

About the author

Professor Harold Ellis

CBE, FRCS

Emeritus Professor of Surgery, University of London; Department of Anatomy, Guy's Hospital, London

No competing interests declared

Members can search all issues of the BJPN/JPP published since 1998 and download articles free of charge at www.afpp.org.uk.

Access is also available to non-members who pay a small fee for each article download.

KEYWORDS Hodgkin's disease / Thomas Hodgkin

Provenance and Peer review: Commissioned by the Editor; Peer reviewed; Accepted for publication March 2010.

by Professor Harold Ellis

Correspondence address: Department of Anatomy, University of London, Guy's Campus, London, SE1 1UL.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.