M.D., Dr., Mr., FRCS, ?

The British have their own way of referring to physicians. Some are Mr, some are Dr, some have FRCS after their name, and some have M.D. Our own John Watson was styled: John H. Watson, M.D. and referred to as Dr Watson.  What are the distinctions, the degrees or education indicated, and who can come up with the list of all the physicians and their appropriate professional titles as per the Canon?


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M.D., Dr., Mr., FRCS, ? — 22 Comments

  1. Back in the days before the internet, William D Goodrich published “The New Good Old Index”. Using that as a guide, here is a list of doctors in the Canon:

    Dr. Moore Agar, of Harley Street; Dr. Richards, the local doctor in the area of Tredannick Wollas; “Dr. Leon Sterndale, the great lion-hunter and explorer” DEVI

    “Dr. Ainstree, the greatest living authority upon tropical disease”; “Sir Jasper Meek or Penrose Fisher, or any of the best men in London” DYIN

    “Anstruther would do your work for you”; Dr. Willows, local doctor of the Ross, Herefordshire area BOSC

    Dr. Leslie Armstrong “he is not only one of the heads of the medical school of [Cambridge] University, but a thinker of European reputation in more than one branch of science” MISS

    “In Kennington Road…there lives a well-known medical practitioner, named Dr. Barnicot, who has one of the largest practices upon the south side of the Thames. His residence and principal consulting-room is at Kennington Road, but he has a branch surgery and dispensary at Lower Brixton Road, two miles away” SIXN

    Dr. Hill Barton, 369, Half Moon Street was the alias Watson assumed with Baron Gruner; Sir Leslie Oakshott, “the famous surgeon”; Baron Gruner’s unnamed “family surgeon, closely followed by a specialist“ ILLU

    Dr. Becher, apparently the real name of Ferguson, who was working with Colonel Lysander Stark and whose house was burning in Eyford ENGR

    Dr. Ray Ernest who along with Mrs. Amberley was murdered by Josiah Amberley RETI

    Old Mr. Farquhar whose Paddington practice Watson purchased STOC

    Dr. Ferrier who lived near Percy ‘Tadpole’ Phelps NAVA

    Dr. Fordham local doctor in the area of Donnithorpe, Norfolk GLOR

    Dr. Horsom, of 13, Firbank Villas who tended Rose Spender; the Rev. Dr. Shlessinger, missionary from South America, alias of Henry ‘Holy’ Peters LADY

    Jackson another obliging neighbor who would cover Watson’s practice; nameless ‘”medical man” who attended Col. Barclay CROO

    Mr. Kent, a surgeon who attended Godfrey Emsworth; Sir James Saunders “the great dermatologist”; unnamed doctor in South Africa BLAN

    “Mortimer, James, M.R.C.S., 1882, Grimpen, Dartmoor, Devon. House-surgeon, from 1882 to 1884, at Charing Cross Hospital. Winner of the Jackson Prize for Comparative Pathology, with essay entitled `Is Disease a Reversion?’ Corresponding member of the Swedish Pathological Society. Author of `Some Freaks of Atavism’ (Lancet, 1882), `Do We Progress?’ (Journal of Psychology, March, 1883). Medical Officer for the parishes of Grimpen, Thorsley, and High Barrow.” Holmes: “And now, Dr. James Mortimer– ” Mortimer: “Mister, sir, Mister – a humble M.R.C.S.” HOUN

    Dr. Grimesby Roylott—he had taken “a medical degree, and went out to Calcutta, where, by his professional skill and his force of character, he established a large practice”; as criminal doctors “Palmer and Pritchard were among the heads of their profession” SPEC

    At Blair Island in the Andamans, the “surgeon, Dr. Somerton, was a fast, sporting young chap” SIGN

    Ficticious old Dr. Lysander Starr, who was Mayor of Topeka in 1890 3GAR

    Dr. Percy Trevelyan, 403, Brook Street, a London University man; occupied a minor position in King’s College Hospital; research into the pathology of catalepsy; winner of the Bruce Pinkerton prize and medal for his monograph on nervous lesions RESI

    Young doctor Verner who bought Watson’s practice and distant relation of Holmes NORW

    John H. Watson, MD, Doctor of Medicine of the University of London 1878; Netley; Assistant Surgeon, Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers; practices in Kensington, Paddington, Queen Anne Street STUD, STOC, EMPT, ILLU

    Dr. Wood, a brisk and capable general practitioner from the village of Birlstone VALL

    The unnamed country surgeon who attended Rucastle COPP; the old, white-haired local surgeon of North Walsham, Norfolk DANC; Sarah Cushing’s medical adviser “a grave young gentleman in black, with a very shiny hat” CARD

    Possible doctors–Professor Morphy, chair of Comparative Anatomy, Camford; obscure scientist H. Lowenstein of Prague CREE

    • Wow! I’m impressed! James is hard to stump. Brilliant!

      Now, as to the usage of Mr and Dr . . . What is the difference? When is one a Dr and one a Mr and what of the FRCS?

      • Of course, I will admit I forgot Dr. Thorneycroft Huxtable, M.A., Ph.D., etc. I believe he was played by Bill Cosby on TV in the ’80’s. “Sidelights on Horace”, indeed.

  2. Excellent list & comment, James.

    Per Helen Simpson, “Medical Career and Capacities of Dr. J.H. Watson,” Watson earned the degree of M.D., which entitled him to be called “Doctor.” In Britain, this was a degree above and beyond the M.B. (medical baccalaureate), which required additional study and acceptance of “a thesis of outstanding merit.”

    Surgeons — Members or Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons, such as James Mortimer — used the title “Mister” rather than “Doctor.”

    In a paper on Watson’s treatment of Victor Hatherley, I have proposed that Watson had made a particular study of the use of carbolic acid and other early disinfectants; that he did his M.D. thesis on this subject; and that he built his practice on his reputation for controlling infection. His knowledge of carbolic acid would have given him a topic of conversation with his new flat-mate Mr. Holmes, as carbolic is a coal-tar derivative.

    • I was going to check out my copy of the “Medical Casebook of Doctor Arthur Conan Doyle” by Alvin E. Rodin and Jack D. Key, as I know they wrote about MB’s, CM’s, MD’s, and FRCS’s, but not in an easily searchable way. In “The Field Bazaar”, Holmes says this to Watson about a letter he received from his old alma mater Edinburgh University, “…it was an unofficial communication. This I gathered from the use of the word ‘Doctor’ upon the address, to which, as a Bachelor of Medicine, you have no legal claim.” I’m not sure, but I thought I read that MB’s are called “doctor” and can practice as one. Of course, Watson got his MD at the University of London later. Your paper on Watson’s MD thesis sounds interesting.

      I had forgotten that “Casebook of ACD” had a most useful appendix listing doctors in the Canon:

      Listing in Appendix E of “Medical Casebook of Doctor Arthur Conan Doyle” by Alvin E. Rodin and Jack D. Key

      Agar, Moore Harley Street Consultant DEVI
      Ainstree Tropical Disease Specialist DYIN
      Anstruther G.P. BOSC
      Armstrong, Leslie Consultant MISS
      Barnicot G.P. SIXN
      Barton, Hill alias used by Watson ILLU
      Becher G.P. ENGR
      Bennett, Trevor A medical degree CREE
      Doctor G.P. DEVI [I believe this is a mistake the part of Rodin and Key]
      Ernest, Ray G.P. RETI
      Farquhar G.P. STOC
      Ferrier G.P. NAVA
      Fisher, Penrose Consultant DYIN
      Fordham G.P. GLOR
      Horsom G.P. LADY
      Jackson Research Assistant G.P. CROO
      Kent, Mr. Surgeon BLAN
      Lowenstein Endocrinology Prof. CREE
      Meek, Sir Jasper Harley Street Consultant DYIN
      Morphy Comparative Anatomy Professor CREE
      Mortimer, James Surgeon HOUN
      Oakshott, Sir Leslie Surgeon ILLU
      Palmer Dr. SPEC
      Presbury Physiology Professor CREE
      Prichard Dr. SPEC
      Richards G.P. DEVI
      Roylott, Grimesby G.P. SPEC
      Saunder, James Dermatology Consultant BLAN
      Somerton Indian Medical Services SIGN
      Stamford, young G.P. STUD
      Sterndale (Explorer) G.P. DEVI
      Starr, Lysander (Mayor) 3GAR
      Surgeon, local Surgeon DEVI
      Surgeon, ship Surgeon GLOR
      Trevelyan, Percy Nervous Diseases RESI
      Verner G.P. NORW
      Watson, John G.P. STUD et al
      Willows G.P. BOSC
      Wood G.P. VALL

      They listed Stamford, whom I forgot; Trevor Bennett, Presbury’s secretary who had a medical degree; the ship’s surgeon in GLOR; and Presbury himself, whose title I was unable to find.

      • Jack Tracy’s Encyclopedia Sherlockiana also adds several unidentified doctors: one who treated Lady Falder (SHOS); Nathan Garrideb’s physician, who advised him about not going out (3GAR); the one at the leper hospital who treated Ensworth; the one who diagnosed Hope’s aneurism (STUD); the surgeon who treated Elsie Cubitt (DANC); Baron Gruner’s surgeon & a specialist who treated him (ILLU); one who treated Rachel Howells (MUSG); and one summoned to the Red Bull Inn (PRIO). To this list, I add that the hypochondriac Thaddeus Sholto (SIGN) must have consulted a number of doctors, but as they are not referenced in the story they don’t truly fall within the scope of the question.

  3. Thank you Dash . . . Excellent additions to our discussion.

    My own experience in hospital in England was with a “Consultant” who was in charge. There was also a physician called a “Proctor” who had rank over the “Doctors” and the “Misters.” I don’t know the female equivalents as, sadly, I did not encounter distaff physicians. And that leads to another thought:

    In 1895, is there knowledge of the number of women who practiced medicine in England? Is it possible that Dr Watson’s second wife was a physician, thereby making it easier for him to join Holmes on cases? Has this theory ever been posited in the scholarship?

  4. According to http://www.mccarter.org/education/mrs-warrens/html/9.html
    “Women began to attend universities: in 1869 they were first admitted to Cambridge to study, though they were not allowed to take degrees. By 1902 there were over 200 woman doctors in England, and in 1895 the first woman qualified as a dentist.” Doyle wrote about that rarity in “The Doctors of Hoyland” in the “Round the Red Lamp” collection. SPOILERS. Dr. James Ripley is a young, full-of-himself doctor. After driving out the competition, he was THE doctor for six miles round Hoyland, Hampshire. One day, a new doctor moved into the neighborhood, Verrinder Smith, MD. Turns out Dr. Smith is a woman, which offends Ripley’s sensibilities. He starts losing patients to the good doctor; after a careless carriage accident in which he breaks his leg, he is nursed to health by Dr. Smith. He recognizes her superior medical talents and loses his heart to her. He professes his love. “If I had know what was passing in your mind I should have told you earlier that I intended to devote my life entirely to science. There are many women with a capacity for marriage, but few with a taste of biology.” Sounds like a female Sherlock Holmes. I do not know of any papers positing Watson’s second wife was a physician, but my knowledge is far from encyclopedic. One must balance the small numbers of female doctors against the fact that they and Watson would run in the same small circles and have a greater chance of meeting.

  5. That is about as complete a discussion as you will find anywhere. Thank you very much to our intrepid Canonical researchers!

  6. Good catches, Dash. I do have:
    “unnamed doctor in South Africa BLAN” and

    “the old, white-haired local surgeon of North Walsham, Norfolk DANC” and

    “Baron Gruner’s unnamed “family surgeon, closely followed by a specialist“ ILLU”

    However, I missed:
    Lady Falder’s “doctor would certify that for months her symptoms [of the dropsy] have threatened such an end” SHOS

    Nathan Garrideb’s unnamed doctor: “My doctor lectures me about never going out, but why should I go out when I have so much to hold me here?” 3GAR

    The unnamed doctor who attended Rachel Howells MUSG

    The unnamed doctor from Mackleton who attended the landlady of the Red Bull Inn PRIO

    Jefferson Hope “went to a doctor last week about” his aortic aneurism STUD
    I wonder how many more are lurking around the Canon? I guess you can’t say that there’s never a doctor around when you need one.

  7. Another doctor: “late Elias Whitney, D.D., Principal of the Theological College of St George’s” TWIS
    A Doctor of Divinity, true, but a doctor nonetheless.

  8. I was just re-reading Thor Bridge in preparation for the upcoming Montague Street Lodgers meeting, and found yet another doctor for the list: Maria Gibson’s body “was examined by the police and by a doctor before being carried up to the house.” Anyone keeping count?

  9. I have been keeping track. I believe in a quick count that with your discovery it is 3 fictitious doctors, 41 doctors, with one of those D.D. and one Ph.D. I will have to resort my list to make the information clearer.

  10. Some sharp-eyed Watsonian will probably come up with one or two more. I was thinking of writing the findings up at some point–“Some Marginalia on Doctors in the Canon” listing the ones we’ve found, the differences on Dr. and Mr., what the Doctor’s Common was and how coroners were not usually medical men (both SPEC) with all our names attached. Something for a future issue of The Watsonian once we’re pretty confidant we’ve ferreted out the lot. I am expecting that once it sees print we’ll get letters from readers, each with finds that were overlooked

  11. By the way, in a reordering of the list I get:
    Dr. Moore Agar, of Harley Street DEVI

    “Dr. Ainstree, the greatest living authority upon tropical disease” DYIN

    “Anstruther would do your work for you” BOSC

    Dr. Leslie Armstrong “he is not only one of the heads of the medical school of [Cambridge] University, but a thinker of European reputation in more than one branch of science” MISS

    Dr. Barnicot “In Kennington Road…there lives a well-known medical practitioner, named Dr. Barnicot, who has one of the largest practices upon the south side of the Thames. His residence and principal consulting-room is at Kennington Road, but he has a branch surgery and dispensary at Lower Brixton Road, two miles away” SIXN

    * Dr. Hill Barton, 369, Half Moon Street was the alias Watson assumed with Baron Gruner ILLU

    Dr. Becher, apparently the real name of Ferguson, who was working with Colonel Lysander Stark and whose house was burning in Eyford ENGR

    Trevor Bennett, Professor Presbury’s secretary who had a medical degree CREE

    Dr. Ray Ernest who along with Mrs. Amberley was murdered by Josiah Amberley RETI

    Old Mr. Farquhar whose Paddington practice Watson purchased STOC

    Dr. Ferrier who lived near Percy ‘Tadpole’ Phelps NAVA

    Penrose Fisher “Sir Jasper Meek or Penrose Fisher, or any of the best men in London” DYIN

    Dr. Fordham local doctor in the area of Donnithorpe, Norfolk GLOR

    Dr. Horsom, of 13, Firbank Villas who tended Rose Spender LADY

    Dr. Thorneycroft Huxtable, M.A., Ph.D., etc. PRIO

    Jackson, another obliging neighbor who would cover Watson’s practice CROO

    Mr. Kent, a surgeon who attended Godfrey Emsworth BLAN

    Obscure scientist H. Lowenstein of Prague CREE

    Sir Jasper Meek “Sir Jasper Meek or Penrose Fisher, or any of the best men in London” DYIN

    Professor Morphy, chair of Comparative Anatomy, Camford CREE

    “Mortimer, James, M.R.C.S., 1882, Grimpen, Dartmoor, Devon. House-surgeon, from 1882 to 1884, at Charing Cross Hospital. Winner of the Jackson Prize for Comparative Pathology, with essay entitled `Is Disease a Reversion?’ Corresponding member of the Swedish Pathological Society. Author of `Some Freaks of Atavism’ (Lancet, 1882), `Do We Progress?’ (Journal of Psychology, March, 1883). Medical Officer for the parishes of Grimpen, Thorsley, and High Barrow.” “And now, Dr. James Mortimer– ” “Mister, sir, Mister – a humble M.R.C.S.” HOUN

    Sir Leslie Oakshott, “the famous surgeon” ILLU

    Palmer as criminal doctors “Palmer and Pritchard were among the heads of their profession” SPEC

    Professor Presbury professor at Camford CREE

    Pritchard as criminal doctors “Palmer and Pritchard were among the heads of their profession” SPEC

    Dr. Richards, the local doctor in the area of Tredannick Wollas DEVI

    Dr. Grimesby Roylott—he taken “a medical degree, and went out to Calcutta, where, by his professional skill and his force of character, he established a large practice” SPEC

    Sir James Saunders “the great dermatologist” BLAN

    *the Rev. Dr. Shlessinger, missionary from South America, alias of Henry ‘Holy’ Peters LADY

    Dr. Somerton At Blair Island in the Andamans the “surgeon, Dr. Somerton, was a fast, sporting young chap” SIGN

    Young Stamford who had been a dresser Watson at Barts STUD

    *Fictitious old Dr. Lysander Starr, who was Mayor of Topeka in 1890 3GAR

    “Dr. Leon Sterndale, the great lion-hunter and explorer” DEVI

    Dr. Percy Trevelyan, 403, Brook Street, a London University man, occupied a minor position in King’s College Hospital, research into the pathology of catalepsy, winner of the Bruce Pinkerton prize and medal for his monograph on nervous lesions RESI

    Young doctor Verner who bought Watson’s practice and distant relation of Holmes NORW

    John H. Watson, MD, Doctor of Medicine of the University of London 1878; Netley; Assistant Surgeon, Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers; practices in Kensington, Paddington, Queen Anne Street STUD, STOC, EMPT, ILLU

    The “late Elias Whitney, D.D., Principal of the Theological College of St George’s” TWIS

    Dr. Willows local doctor of the Ross, Herefordshire area BOSC

    Dr. Wood, a brisk and capable general practitioner from the village of Birlstone VALL

    OTHERS

    (2) Baron Gruner’s unnamed “family surgeon, closely followed by a specialist” ILLU

    The nameless doctor on board the ‘Gloria Scott’ GLOR

    Nameless ‘”medical man” who attended Col. Barclay CROO

    Unnamed doctor at the South Africa leper hospital who treated Godfrey Emsworth BLAN

    The unnamed country surgeon who attended Rucastle COPP

    The old, white-haired local surgeon near North Walsham, Norfolk DANC

    Sarah Cushing’s medical adviser “a grave young gentleman in black, with a very shiny hat” CARD

    Lady Falder’s “doctor would certify that for months her symptoms [of the dropsy] have threatened such an end” SHOS

    Nathan Garrideb’s unnamed doctor: “My doctor lectures me about never going out, but why should I go out when I have so much to hold me here?” 3GAR

    The unnamed doctor who attended Rachel Howells MUSG

    The unnamed doctor from Mackleton who attended the landlady of the Red Bull Inn PRIO

    Jefferson Hope “went to a doctor last week about” his aortic aneurism STUD

    Maria Pinto Gibson’s body “examined by the police and by a doctor before being carried up to the house” THOR

    So that would be, I believe, 53 doctors, three of which are fictitious ( and one of those a fake D.D). Of the 50 left one is a D.D. and one a PH.D.

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