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Robert Bentley Todd

Robert Bentley Todd
Born 9 April 1809
Dublin, Ireland
Died 30 January 1860 (aged 50)
London, England
Fields medicine
Known for Todd's palsy

Robert Bentley Todd (1809 – 1860) was an Irish-born physician who is best known for describing the condition postictal paralysis in his Lumleian Lectures in 1849 now known as Todd's palsy. He was the younger brother of noted writer and minister James Henthorn Todd.


Early life

Regent House at Trinity College.

He was the son of physician Charles Hawkes Todd and Eliza Bentley. He attended day school and was tutored by the Rev. W. Higgin, who was afterwards the bishop of Derry. Todd entered Trinity College in 1825, intending to study for the bar. When his father died the next year, he switched to medicine and became a resident pupil at a hospital in Dublin. He was a student of Robert Graves, and graduated B.A. at Trinity in 1829. He became licensed at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland two years later.

Professional life

Pembroke Chapel Quad.

He then moved to London, where he practiced medicine and lectured. He received a M.S. at Pembroke College, Oxford in 1832, a B.M. the following year, and a D.M. in 1836. He travelled widely in Europe, lecturing and becoming acquainted with a number of eminent men in his field. He took the license of the Royal College of Physicians in 1833, became a Fellow in 1837, and a Censor in 1839-40. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society and served on the council in 1838-9. In 1836-7 he served on a sub-committee of the British Association to inquire into the motions of the heart, and in 1839-40 was Examiner for the University of London. In 1844 he was elected Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.

A meeting of the College of Physicians in the early 19th century.

Todd's abiding interests were in physiological medicine (a field then in its infancy) and in the improvement of hospital nursing, and always held to a high standard of general and religious knowledge. He became a Professor at King's College London in 1836 and was prominent in the opening of King's College Hospital in 1840, and in the founding of its new building in 1851. It was largely through his advocacy that the Sisters of St. John's commenced nursing at King's College Hospital.

Todd's increasing practice forced him to resign his professorship in 1853, and in the final years of his life his practice grew enormously. In failing health, he was finally forced to give up his clinical lectures at the hospital that he had helped found.

Robert Bentley Todd died in his consulting room, at his house in London, on 30 January 1860. He left a widow, Elizabeth (c.1814-1894), daughter of the late J. H. Hart, of Tenerife, and four children, Elizabeth Marion (b.1841), Alice Margaret (b.1843), Bertha Jane(b.1846) and James Henthorn (1848–1891). A statue of Todd was erected in the great hall of King's College Hospital.


Todd was a popular lecturer, and was noted for his accuracy in the observation of disease, correctness of diagnosis, and clarity and exactness in expressing his views. He was the first to lay down definite principles for the treatment of serious cases of fever. In his Lumleian lectures he discussed the nature and treatment of various forms of delirium, and showed the significant role that exhaustion played in patient deterioration, and how bleeding and lowering remedies contributed to deterioration, while supporting treatment was followed by relief.

Todd was a prolific contributor to medical publications, including The Cyclopaedia of Anatomy and Physiology. He immediately integrated newly available technology, particularly the microscope, into the study and practice of medicine, and was a driving force in raising the standards of medical knowledge.

Partial bibliography

Among Todd's publications were

  • The Cyclopaedia of Anatomy and Physiology (1835 – 1859, with other notables)
  • Gulstonian Lectures on the Physiology of the Stomach (1839)
  • Physiological Anatomy and Physiology of Man (1843 – 56, with W. Bowman) — this was among the first works in which histology played an important role
  • Practical Remarks on Gout, Rheumatic Fever, and Chronic Rheumatism of the Joints (1843)
  • Description and Physiological Anatomy of the Brain, Spinal Cord, and Ganglions (1845)
  • Lumleian Lectures on the Pathology and Treatment of Delirium and Coma (1850)
  • Clinical Lectures (1854 – 7 – 9, in three volumes)
  • Contributions to the Transactions of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society from 1833 through 1859 ('chirurgical' is a now-obsolete term meaning 'surgical')
  • Ten articles to the Cyclopaedia of Medicine from 1833 to 1835, including discussions of paralysis, pseudo-morbid appearances, suppuration, and diseases of the spinal marrow



External links



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Irish physician (1809-1860)


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