Curriculum Vitae
By Charles Douglas Wehner

After the publication of the work, Professor Armand Trousseau taught about Addison`s disease to his student Louis Martineau, who published De la maladie d`Addison as a doctorate thesis. Then Edward Headlam Greenhow - who met Addison personally - published On Addison`s Disease, followed by On Addison`s Disease, being the Croonian Lectures for 1875.

Here is an exerpt from that latter book:

"And now, Sir, before I address myself to my proper subject - Dr Addison`s discovery - permit me to say a few words respecting Dr. Addison himself; for it seems to me that to show, though of necessity but briefly, from what, and how, Thomas Addison rose to become one of the most eminent physicians and ablest clinical teachers of our day, is, on the present occasion, only a fitting tribute to his memory.

"Dr Addison belonged to that class of men, so numerous in this country, who, by their abilities and energy, have raised themselves from the lower ranks of society to the more exalted positions in their respective callings. He was born in the autumn of 1795, at Long Benton, a small rural village in Northumberland, situated about three-and-a-half miles from Newcastle-on-Tyne. His father was a grocer and flour-dealer; but, though of humble station, he must have been a man of enlarged views, for he not only gave his son the best elementary education within his reach, but he aspired to start him in life on a much higher social level than his own. Dr. Addison himself told me that his father had designed him for the law, but that personal predilections had induced him to embrace the profession of medicine.

"Addison was first sent, with his brother, to a school kept in a roadside cottage by one John Rutter, the parish clerk; from whom also, some years later, Robert, the son of George Stephenson, received his elementary education, whilst his father was engine-wright at the neighbouring Killingworth Collieries. Addison was subsequently removed to a school of a somewhat higher class, either in Newcastle-on-Tyne, or at a place called Three-mile Bridge, on the great North road. From thence he went to Edinburgh, and became a medical student.

"Fortunately, his father had the means, as well as the desire, to afford his son every possible advantage for acquiring a knowledge of his profession. The opening out of collieries in the parish had largely increased his custom among the pit-folk of the neighbourhood, and he had become rich for his station. Addison, therefore, after passing through the necessary curriculum of medical study in Edinburgh, and taking the degree of M.D., was enabled to come to London, where he first became house-surgeon to the Lock Hospital, and subsequently physician to the Carey Street Dispensary, and also, I believe, to the Royal Infirmary for Children and Women in Waterloo Road. Soon after his arrival in London he had entered himself as a pupil at Guy`s Hospital, and, in a comparatively short space of time, he was raised to be a member of the medical staff of that institution. In this position he speedily made for himself a great reputation as a practical physician and clinical teacher.

"The wide experience acquired in such various fields of study, together with his own great natural powers of observation, sufficiently explain the apparently intuitive knowledge of disease, and almost unrivalled powers of diagnosis, which formed the basis of Addison`s great and real success in professional life. For his success was real. It was not small, if estimated in the lower sense of pecuniary results; but, if estimated in the far higher sense by achievement and reputation, his success was great indeed, and such as only a favoured few can hope to equal. In some subjects he was far in advance of his day. Pathological truths which he enunciated thirty years ago, with respect to diseases of the lungs, have only recently won their way to general acceptance. The discovery with which his name will ever be associated was published to the medical world nearly twenty years ago, and has not yet been generally accepted, nor even generally understood.

"Dr. Addison died at Brighton in June 1860, and was interred at Lanercost Abbey, in Cumberland, from whence his family had originally sprung, and where his paternal grandfather had been a respected yeoman. I trust, Sir, that this slight sketch of the life and labours of one of the most eminent members of our body will not be deemed an unsuitable prelude to lectures which are expressly devoted to the elucidation of his most famous work.

"Dr. Addison had been for nearly thirty years on the medical staff of Guy`s Hospital when he discovered the existence of the disease to which Trousseau, if I mistake not, was the first to apply the name of `Addison`s Disease.` To quote his own words, he had,`for a long period
met with a very remarkable form of general anaemia, occurring without any discoverable cause whatsoever........."


End of extract from Greenhow


According to George Pallister, who wrote the book "Thomas Addison MD FRCP" in 1975, Addison`s friend, Dr. Londsdale, put it about that he was born in 1793. This information seems to have spread, until even the plaque in the Guy`s Hospital chapel gives that date. The pedestal of the bust by Joseph Towne also states that he died aged 68, instead of a few months short of 65.

Pallister reports that the older brother John was born on 13th April 1794, and that Thomas himself was baptised on October 11 1795.

Here is the chapter entitled "BIOGRAPHY" from A collection of the Published Writings of the Late Thomas Addison, M.D., by Dr Wilks (later Sir Samuel Wilks) and Dr Daldy, of 1868 - both of them longstanding colleagues of Addison:



"The records of Addison`s early life are so difficult of ascertainment that any account of his actual life, in reference to the object of these papers, must date from the commencement of his association with Guy`s Hospital about the year 1819 or 1820. That must have been nearly the period at which he attached himself to the hospital, where his enterprising and spirited activity in the search after a definite explanation of every form of disease presented to his observation, attracted the attention of the observant and large-minded treasurer; who was then by common acknowledgement the great administrative benefactor, and, through the appreciation of his minute, vigorous, and just guidance of its business from the smallest details to the highest principles involved in its government, the accepted dictator of the affairs of the institution. It was not easy in those days to overcome the prevailing ingrained prejudice that unless a man has been originally a pupil of the hospital he was not fairly eligible to the duties of its offices. Addison`s may be cited, indeed, as one of the earliest (if not the first) instances of those traditional trammels being broken through; for in 1824 he was appointed assistant-physician to the hospital, his previous association with it consisting only in his entry there as a student after having taken his degree in Edinburgh.

"It cannot be doubted that Mr. Harrison`s intelligent and scrutinising attention to the qualities of the gentlemen then about the hospital in reference to the appointments to future vacancies induced him to select Addison as a physician highly calculated to carry out the two foremost objects of his life, the promotion of the usefulness of the charity, and the extension of the reputation of the school.

"There is always an interest attaching to the history of any man who has made a prominent position for himself in whatever career of life; the question "how he did it" excites the interest of the younger members of any profession in which it has been achieved. In the instance of Addison the old answer must be given - he "did it" by indomitable perseverance in the pursuit of one object of study; making it, as it were, the one day-dream and night-dream of his existence.

"He seems to have been born to humble parents as Long Benton, near Newcastle, about 1793, to have been sent to the village school there, and afterwards to the Grammar School at Newcastle. Thence he migrated to Edinburgh, where he graduated M.D. in 1815, selecting for the subject of his inaugural thesis "De Siphilide."(DISSERTATIO MEDICA INAUGURALIS QUAEDAM DE SYPHILIDE ET HYDRARGYRO COMPLECTENS, in Wellcome Library, London - Wehner)

"His familiarity with Latin was at this time exemplified by a habit of taking down lecture-notes in that language; and this mental peculiarity may have led to his habitual exactitude of diction in whatever he wrote or spoke in after life.

"On his arrival in London, he took up his residence at Skinner Street, Snow Hill, in one of the so-called "haunted houses" (possibly from some association with the Cock Lane ghost story of Dr. Johnson), and was soon after appointed house-surgeon to the Lock Hospital, where he acquired so great an interest in the subject of syphilis, that, although a topic not in strict accord with the branch of the profession which he had adopted, he always spoke on it authoritatively.

"The next step in his career which we can gather is his residence in Hatton Garden, and his attachment to the General Dispensary. At this time he studied with the celebrated Bateman, and thus became so great a proficient in skin-disease as to acquire the acknowledgement of those cognisant of his skill, that after the death of the great dermatologist his mantle had fallen upon Addison. From his desire to avoid the pursuit of this subject as a specialty, this competency was not generally known; but it is certain that until a comparatively recent period Addison`s accuracy in the discrimination of cutaneous eruptions was scarcely matched; an assertion which a careful examination of the unrivalled wax models in the museum of Guy`s Hospital (studiously prepared during many years under his own superintendence) will fully bear out. It is also believed that he entered as a student at St George`s Hospital, but of this we can obtain no proof, and know only that he became successively a student at Guy`s, was promoted early to the office of assistant-physician (1824), when, from the recognition of his great practical knowledge, his fame spread rapidly among the pupils, and he became a brilliant acquisition to the new school. This recognition placed him, in consequence of an early vacancy (1827), in the chair of Materia Medica. At that time, when medical students paid fees for separate courses of lectures, they sought throughout the metropolis for the most attractive teachers. Armstrong then drew a large class to the Webb Street school by his instruction in the practice of medicine; most of his pupils remained to listen to Addison, and so great was the attendance that his lecture-fees must have amounted to £700 or £800 a year.

"In the year 1837 he received the appointment of physician to the hospital, and was at the same time selected as the colleague of the late Dr. Bright in the duties of the chair of Medicine.

"At this period he commenced, conjointly with his colleague, a work on `Medicine.` From the high estimation in which this work was held it must be a matter of regret that one volume only was published. Now that both these widely-known authors have departed from their labours, it cannot be harmful to assert (what was then generally known) that the greater portion of the work was from the pen of Dr. Addison.

"He had now achieved the desired position for that development, or rather the showing forth, of the qualities which he had cultivated with so much care; those of the eminently practical physician. And he certainly exhibited them in a remarkable degree; his strong, positive, and perpetual insistance upon the term "practical", in reference to disease, constitutes, indeed, the key to Addison`s character and professional career. He was always ready to discuss newly-started theories, but he never, for a moment, allowed them to interfere with the results of his matured experience. Possessing unusually vigorous perceptive powers, being shrewd and sagacious beyond the average of men, the patient before him was scanned with a penetrating glance from which few diseases could escape detection. He never reasoned from a half-discovered fact, but would remain at the bedside, with a dogged determination to track out the disease to its very source for a period which constantly wearied his class and his attendant friends.

"So severely did he tax his mind with the minutest details bearing upon an exact exposition of the case, that he has been known to startle the sister of the ward in the middle of the night by his presence; after going to bed with the case present in his mind, some point of what he considered important detail in reference to it occurred to him, and he could not rest until he had cleared it up. He had also been known after seeing a patient within the radius of eight or ten miles to have remembered on his near approach to London, thinking over the case on the way, that he had omitted some seemingly important inquiry, and to have posted back some miles for the purpose of satisfying his mind on the doubt which had occurred to it, If at last he could lay his finger on the disease, his victory was attained, and his painstaking satisfactorily rewarded. For with him accurate "diagnosis" was the great, and too often the ultimate, object of an industry of search, a correlation of facts deduced from scientific observation, and a concentration of thought rarely combined in the individual physician. To those who knew him best his power of searching into the complex framework of the body, and dragging the hidden malady to light, appeared unrivalled; but we fear the one great object being accomplished, the same enegetic power was not devoted to its alleviation or cure. Without accusing Addison of a meditated neglect of therapeutics, we fancy that we can trace the dallying with remedies which has been the characteristic of more recent times. "I have worked out the disease; if it be remediable, Nature, with fair play, will remedy it. I do not clearly see my way to the direct agency of special medicaments, but I must prescribe something for the patient, at least, to satisfy his or her friends," seems to have been a part of the habit of mind which can deal satisfactorily only with the "observable and proven," and shrinks from the "uncertain and questionable."

"His discovery of the heretofore unsuspected disease of the supra-renal capsules was the result of an exhaustive analysis of every organ of the body, without elucidating any evident reason for a remarkable form of anæmia: for a time he was constrained to the expression "idiopathic anæmia," accompanied by a prognosis of its fatal issue. This prognosis was so constantly verified that, following up the doctrine of exclusion, he at last, in the absence of any other noticeable cause for it, observed an association between it and a peculiar appearance of the supra-renal capsules. Here we trace the advantage of the large study of clinical facts; at that time skin disease was supposed to be confined to the province of the surgeon, and it is probable that but for Addison`s accurate observation of the various cutaneous deviation from its ordinary and healthy condition, the bronzed skin would not have rivetted his attention so forcibly as to have incited him to prosecute his inquiries to their ultimate issue.

"We recognise the necessity for some brief remarks on Addison`s disposition from the conviction that it was not generally understood. Viewed in its professional aspect, no character on record has presented in a higher degree the sterling hard qualities of true professional honesty. We have never heard a single instance in which a word of disparagement against a professional brother escaped him. He would always strenuously and with all his natural vigour maintain what he believed to be the truth, but never for the purpose of underrating the opinions of others. His whole bearing in the profession was to the last degree honorable, and anything like jealousy or ill-will against another professional man never entered his mind.

"The admirable bust by Towne, which now adorns the museum of Guy`s Hospital, is the best exposition of the estimation in which he was held by his colleagues, from whose subscriptions it resulted.

"He was for many years acknowledged as the spirit which influenced the medical doings at Guy`s Hospital, and to Addison is due, in great measure, the prominent character which the medical department of that institution has of late years held in public professional estimation.

"Yet in professional intercourse his disposition presented peculiarities often misrepresented by the professional observer; he, the observer, saw what appeared to him a rudeness, a certain bluntness of expression conveying to him the idea of a haughtiness, or at least of Addison`s assumption of superiority; so that he parted with him impressed with the dignity of his bearing, a full appreciation of the accurate and well-sifted opinion which he had obtained, but at the same time carrying with him the notion that, judging from his apparently unapproachable manner, and what seemed to many "hauteur," he was a man of large self-esteem. This is one of the commonest mistakes in the estimation of character. In what degree a resoluteness of expression and an undue energy of manner is unconsciously adopted to cloak a covert physical nervousness, no one but the wearer of the cloak can fully estimate. We have reason to know that Addison suffered most accutely from this physical enervation; he has even said, "I never rose to address the Guy`s Junior Physical Society without feeling nervous," and yet his listeners would depart with the feeling that he had spoken to them in what may almost be termed a tone of "bluster;" they went away impressed with the dignity of his bearing, and credited him with great physical and moral energy; not recognising that a quick, hasty, and impassioned manner of expression is not infrequently the result of a deficient controlling power. We know that his mind was to the last degree susceptible, and that although wearing the outward garb of resolution, he was, beyond most other men, most liable to sink under trial. We lay some stress upon this peculiarity for the purpose of vindicating his character from the unamiable spirit which we have heard sometimes laid to his charge. If there be any of our readers who may have been vexed by the apparent discourteousness of his manner, let them carefully consider the explanation of it which we have attempted to depict, and give thanks to God that they have been blessed with a calmer and less perturbable spirit.

"His last communication addressed to the pupils of the hospital in answer to a letter of condolence written to him on his retirement from the hospital on account of his ill-health conveys most markedly the seemingly latent kindliness of his nature, his entire devotion to whatever would aid to place medicine on a more scientific basis, his affectionate regard for those of his juniors who were fellow-helpers in the work, and his own powerful style of expressing what he sincerely and heartily felt.

"March 17th, 1860.


"A considerable breakdown in my health has scared me from the anxieties, responsibilities, and excitement of the profession; whether temporarily or permanently cannot yet be determined; but, whatever may be the issue, be assured that nothing was better calculated to soothe me than the kind interest manifested by the pupils of Guy`s Hospital during the many trying years devoted to that institution.

"I can truly affirm that I ever found my best support and encouragement in the generous gratitude and affectionate attachment, as well as my proudest reflections, in the honourable and most exemplary conduct of its pupils. Present my sincere regards and best wishes to every one of them, and believe me,

"Yours truly and affectionately,


"E. Galton, Esq."


End of extract from Wilks and Daldy


In the book "Thomas Addison, M.D., F.R.C.P. 1794-1860" by C. M. Brooks, is the following:

"The Addisons had their first son John in April 1794, the Squarey Clapps (his parish priest, the Rev. John Squarey Clapp) had their son, John, the following year, and the Addisons replied with Thomas, a second son, in October."

It goes on to say that that Thomas went to the Royal Free Grammar School in Newcastle (founded by Aselak of Killingworth in the 12th century) for the Michaelmas term in 1806. He was one of 130 pupils under the Rev. Edward Moises M.A.

Addison, Bright, Hodgkin and E. H. Greenhow`s uncle Thomas Michael Greenhow were all at Edinburgh together in 1812. Richard Bright graduated in 1813, The two Thomases - Hodgkin and Addison - graduated in 1815.

John Fife - a school contemporary - founded the Eye Infirmary with T. M. Greenhow.

Joseph Addison (father) died aged 67 in 1823. Sarah (mother) died in 1841.

Thomas Addison married Elizabeth Catherine Hauxwell, a 27-year-old widow in September 1847.


End of data from C. M. Brooks


Here is an extract from page 29 of Pallister`s self-published book of 1975:

"Another event in the last years of his life must also have given him great satisfaction. He was called upon to make a professional visit to one of the Rothchilds in Paris, and here he was feted by the leading medical men of the French capital. Trousseau, Nélaton and other well-known physicians attended a public dinner in his honour and hailed him as a medical discoverer. This was the occasion when, according to Londsdale, he replied to the "toast of the evening" in admirable French."

Here is an extract from page 30:

"He departed to London the next morning for what proved to be his last session at Guy`s Hospital. During the winter of 1859-1860 he developed some disease of the brain and had to retire from his hospital duties. He left his new house in Berkely Square and went to Brighton for the sea air. He had been greatly upset by the death of a colleague and close friend, Dr Todd, and in Brighton, cut off from his work, his colleagues and pupils, he brooded too much and lapsed into melancholy. He died in Brighton on June 29th, 1860, but his remains were brought to Lanercost and buried in the Priory churchyard on July 5th."


End of extracts from Pallister


I am indebted to Rhys Griffith, Senior Archivist at the London Metropolitan Archives for finding H9/GY/LIB/93, a photocopy of an article by Elspeth Stanford Thomas Addison and his times. The tragic last year 1859-1860. Also for H9/GY/A150/1-30, a bundle of letters in May 1859 from the medical staff giving their opinions on the reason for the decline of Guy`s medical school.

In those letters, sent in reply to a circular from Thomas Turner, the Treasurer of Guy`s, Alfred S Taylor says that the 500 pounds for Guy`s museum is too much, and does not attract students (H9/GY/A150/1).

Mr Cock said of the decline ..."I fully anticipated when the late Mr. Harrison used to act as Treasurer, and the school was at once deprived of the superintendant and services of one..." (H9/GY/A150/4).
It seems that Benjamin Harrison was a lovable buffoon who was the "Great Corporate Benefactor" (see Wilks and Daldy above) and dreamt that he ran the hospital. The standing joke is that Addison, Bright, Towne - and possibly many others - all owe their careers to Harrison.

H9/GY/A150/5 states "Mr Stocker begs to submit the following points to the Treasurer`s notice as suggestive of some of the causes which may have contributed to the decline of the school: 1. The loss of very able and popular lecturers on particular subjects, e.g. Dr. Addison &c. &c. 2. ......."

Thomas Addison replied to the Treasurer (H9/GY/A150/3), but I found the hand impossible to read (typical doctor). He did praise the work of Dr. Hilton, however, and the writing was up-beat.

Elspeth Stanford says that Addison had married Catherine Hauxwell, a widow with two children. They moved to 51 Berkley square, and then the family went on holiday to 15 Wellington Villas to try to clear Addison`s depression.

The wife and stepson Henry Francis Hauxwell decided to employ two bodyguards, Abraham Quilter and John Joseph Medcraft to prevent him committing suicide.

Stanford believed Addison suffered from cancer of the pancreas because he had gallstones and jaundice, but also because of his aversion to food. As evidence she states that the bell went for dinner at 2 o`clock p.m., and he committed suicide. Some aversion - rather death than dinner.

This seems rather apocryphal, like the "Addisonians` craving for salt". Sufferers from Addison`s disease also lose their appetite, but they don`t take it that personally. Only a sufferer from pancreatic cancer will know if this story is credible. Stanford quotes the inquest on Friday, June 29, 1860 when she says that the bodyguards said that Addison had repeatedly tried to kill himself whilst in their charge.

She says that the inquest declared the incident to be an accident although the Brighton newspaper described it as suicide.

For the following extract from the Brighton Herald of the 30th June 1860 (AMS 6373/9, Page 3 column 7), I am indebted to Mr. Philip Bye, Senior Archivist of East Sussex County Council:

"Dr Addison, formerly a physician to Guy`s Hospital, committed suicide by jumping down the area (i.e. the space between the front of the house and the street) of 15 Wellington Villas, where he had for some time been residing, under the care of two attendants, having before attempted self-destruction. He was 72 years of age (sic), and laboured under the form of insanity called melancholia, resulting from overwork of the brain. He was walking in the garden with his attendants, when he was summoned in to dinner. He made as if towards the front door, but suddenly threw himself over a dwarf-wall into the area - a distance of nine feet - and, falling on his head, the frontal bone was fractured, and death resulted at one o`clock yesterday morning"

Mr. Bye goes on to say that the will of Thomas Addison, formerly of 24 New Street, Spring Gardens but late of 51 Berkley Square, Middlesex and of 15 Wellington Villas, Brighton was proved by his brother John Addison of Bank`s House, Cumberland on 4th October 1860, when the estate was valued at less than 30,000 Pounds (but not inconsiderable in those days).