Thomas Hodgkin

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For the British historian with the same name, see Thomas Hodgkin.
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Thomas Hodgkin (b. August 17, 1798, in Pentonville, St. James Parish, Middlesex; d. April 5, 1866, Jaffa, Palestine). British physician at Guy's Hospital, one of the most prominent pathologists of his time and a pioneer in preventive medicine. He is now best known for the first account of Hodgkin's disease, a form of lymphoma and blood disease, in 1832. Hodgkin's work marked the beginning of times when a pathologist was actively involved in the clinical process. He was a contemporary of Thomas Addison (1793-1860) at Guy's Hospital.


Thomas Hodgkin was born to a Quaker family. He received private education, and, in September 1819 he was admitted to St. Thomas's and Guy's Medical School at London. He also studied at the University of Edinburgh. In 1821, he went to Italy and France, where he learned to work with the stethoscope, a recent invention of René Laënnec (1781-1826). In 1823, Hodgkin qualified for his M.D. at Edinburgh with a thesis on the physiological mechanisms of absorption in animals. In December 1825, he was elected member of the Royal College of Physicians of London, and appointed as physician to The London Dispensary and lecturer in morbid anatomy and curator of the Pathology Museum at Guy's Hospital Medical School.

In 1827 Thomas Hodgkin became the first lecturer on pathological anatomy in England. In 1837, having lost a position as assistant physician for Guy's Hospital to Benjamin Babington, he moved to St Thomas' Hospital. Disappointed and frustrated, in the following years he devoted increasing time to non-medical activities, such as geography, philosophy and ethnography. He helped to found the Ethnological Society in 1843. He also became active in the anti-slavery and in the aborigene protection movements (he founded the British and Foreign Aborigines Protection Society in 1837). In his late years, he became friend of Jewish businessmen and philantroper Moses Montefiore (1784-1885), and travelled several times with him to the Near East. He died in his last journey to Palestine, on April 5, 1866, and was interred in a Protestant church in Jaffa. He never married and left no children.


Hodgkin described the disease that bears his name (Hodgkin's lymphoma) in 1832, in a paper titled On Some Morbid Appearances of the Absorbent Glands and Spleen. He received 33 years later the eponym through the recognition of British physician Samuel Wilks (1824–1911), who rediscovered the disease. It is a malignancy which produces enlarge ment of lymphoid tissue, spleen, and liver, with invasion of other tissues. A more benign form is called Hodgkin’s paragranuloma, while a more invasive form is called Hodgkin's sarcoma.

He published as a book his Lectures on Morbid Anatomy in 1836 and 1840. His greatest contribution to the teaching of pathology, however, was made in 1829, with his two volumed entitled The Morbid Anatomy of Serous and Mucous Membranes, which became a classic in modern pathology.

Hodgkin was one of the earliest defenders of preventive medicine, having published On the Means of Promoting and Preserving Health in book form in 1841. Among other early observatoms were the first description of acute appendicitis, of the biconcave format of red blood cells and the striation of muscle fibers.

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