Richard Tonson Evanson MD [Obituary]

Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 1872 , Vol. V, pp. 35-36.


Rev. W. Hartley

Prepared by Michael Steer

Evanson was born in Ireland in 1800. After attending Trinity College, Dublin, he became apprenticed to the surgeon general to the army in Ireland. He was initially awarded a MRCSI, followed by an MD from Glasgow University. In Dublin as a physician, he was in 1830 appointed lecturer on Materia Medica in the Park Street Medical School. In 1836 he was elected Professor of Medicine in the Royal College. However, seven years later he resigned this post because of ill health from an irritable bowel, although he continued to practise in Dublin until 1847. He then retired to warmer climes on the continent, where for a time he was medical advisor to the Duke of Northumberland.  He also published a book of poems, Nature and art, in 1868. Retiring to Torquay, he was invited to chair the 1870 BMA meeting in Plymouth. The following year he died in his sleep, aged 71, The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

RICHARD TONSON EVANSON, M.D., was a native of the county of Clare, in Ireland, and received his education in Trinity College,Dublin, of which he was a distinguished alumnus. He commenced his medical studies as an apprentice to the late Sir Philip Crampton, then Surgeon-General to the Army in Ireland; and in due time became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. He soon, however, turned his attention to medical practice; and having graduated as Doctor in Medicine in the University of Glasgow, he settled in Dublin as a physician, and undertook the office of Lecturer in Materia Medica in the Park Street Medical School. There he was associated with the late Sir Henry Marsh, Dr. Arthur Jacob, Dr. Beatty, Dr. William Stokes, and other teachers whose names brought an European reputation to the Medical School of Dublin during the second quarter of the present century. From Park Street School, Dr. Evanson was subsequently transferred to the Chair of Medicine in the Royal College of Surgeons, and he was rapidly rising into eminence as a practitioner, when ill-health obliged him to remove to warmer climates. For many years he was a wanderer upon the Continent of Europe; but during all that time he never abandoned the practice of his profession, and many English persons of distinction enjoyed the benefits of his skill, and were his patients in the cities where he sojourned. The last of these was the late Duke of Northumberland, whose medical adviser and confidential friend he was for some years. After the Duke's death he retired from private practice; but his love for his profession never diminished, and he continued in close and friendly intimacy with a large circle of its members, by whom his kindness of heart, comprehensive charity, and never-failing benevolence, were warmly estimated. Dr. Evanson's literary abilities were very considerable. He was a frequent contributor to the current medical literature of his time. In 1836 he published, in conjunction with his early and never-forgotten friend Dr. Maunsell, a Practical Treatise upon the Management and Diseases of Children, which was at once recognized as a standard work, was reprinted in America, translated into German, and rapidly passed through five editions. He did not, however, confine his labours within professional limits. As he said, he had early formed a habit of rhyming, and never abandoned it up to the close of his life. So lately as 1868 he published a poem under the title of Nature and Art, with a number of "occasional verses and elegiac stanzas," the latter of which teem with the tenderness and affection which characterized his gentle nature. The motto which he selected for the title-page of this book was indeed the key of his whole life:

“He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things, both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all."

Besides his published works, he wrote and delivered several lectures and addresses to the Torquay Natural History Society, of which he was for many years a member, and took an active part in promoting its usefulness and prosperity. The last public act of Dr. Evanson’s life was when he presided at the entertainment given by the medical men of Torquay to the members of the British Medical Association who attended the annual meeting at Plymouth in August last. On that occasion he was unanimously chosen by his brethren at Torquay as the most fitting person to take the chair; and although evidently suffering and weakened by the disease that was preying upon him, it seemed as if his former vigour and eloquence, for which he was always remarkable, had returned for the occasion, and he spoke with the energy of youth, and the elegant diction of a Christian philosopher and poet; and never did his bright, genial, social, warm-hearted character show more clearly than it did then, placed as he was at the head of a brilliant assembly of the elite of his profession. His connection with the Devonshire Association extended over a period of eight years, he having become a member at the annual meeting at Torquay in 1864, and attended that and several subsequent meetings. He died on October 26th, at his residence, Torquay, in his seventy-second year. On the night previous to his death he was restless, and had determined to remain in bed somewhat longer than usual; but about midday he was found to have passed away tranquilly, without a struggle, and as if in sleep.