Friday, June 5, 2015

Caesar Hawkins: Dexterous Physician and Unique Rise to Prominence

Sir Caesar Hawkins by William Hogarth

Caesar Hawkins was born on 10 January 1711 in Somerset to Caesar Hawkins Snr., a surgeon in Ludlow, Shropshire, and Ann Bight. Unlike most physicians and surgeons at the time, Hawkins does not appear on Munk’s Roll of Royal College Physicians or on the roll of Apothecary’s Company of London nor does he appear to have matriculated through an English University, such as Oxford or Cambridge. This lack of formal education implies that Hawkins most likely stayed with his father for several years and learned much of the surgical practice from him. He also stayed with surgeon John Ranby, who was a foreign brother of the Barbers-Surgeon Company, for seven years (side fact: Ranby was considered a man of “inelegant manners,” and was rebuked by Queen Caroline as a “blockhead” before undergoing surgery for a hernia from which she died (Power)).
The medical career of Hawkins is a unique case. Most eighteenth –century surgeons or doctors of repute usually earned their reputation through publications or election to the Royal Society. Hawkins, however, made his way through the patronage system, which as Lady Scarborough demonstrated, had a powerful influence in an individual’s social standing and profession. He became a member of the Company of Barber-Surgeons in 1735 and was admitted to the Livery in 1736. On 19 August 1736, he was elected along with Peter Maccullock as Demonstrator of Anatomy after the resignation of Abraham Chovett. In 1759, William Shippen notes in his diary his opportunity to watch Hawkins perform an amputation at Georges Hospital, where Hawkins served from 1735 to 1774 (Bynum and Porter, 146). Hawkin’s resigned from the position of Demonstrator of Anatomy almost a year later after his appointment when he was chosen for the position of Surgeon to the Prince of Wales as well as surgeon to one of the troops of guards. On 7 September 1747, he became Sergeant- Surgeon to King George II and managed to hold onto this position into the reign of George III. In 1778, Hawkins was rewarded for his years of service by being created a baronet. He is reportedly the first hospital surgeon to receive the title, “Sir.”
In the eighteenth-century the average premium for a London surgeon was between 20 to 100 pounds. Yet, Hawkins’s reputation in 1736 allowed him to charge a premium of 200 pounds from William Hewitt, the son of a Lancashire gentleman. His phlebotomy practice, “the practice of drawing blood from a vein” (“FAQ”) by itself brought in approximately 1,000 pounds annually. He married a woman named Sarah, who was the daughter of John Coxe, and created a family. Following the Hawkins family surgical tradition, his son, Charles, and grandson, Caesar Henry, would go on to become Sergeant- Surgeons. Hawkins’s brother, Pennell, also held the position. Hawkins is also credited with the invention of an instrument called the cutting gorget in 1740 that went out of use in England by the 1900s. In 1759 he bought the Kelston property, located near Bath, and had the house rebuilt by John Wood in 1764.  
While Hawkins did not contribute to the scholarly realm of his profession, his talent and renown allowed him to create a profitable and prestigious reputation for himself and his family. S.C. Lawrence comments in 1916, “it is a very remarkable thing that this young man coming up to London from the little country town of Ludlow, should have so quickly risen to such an eminence in his profession” (Lawrence, 114). Evidently, the path to prominence could take many different forms during this period in England.
Hawkins passed away on 13 February 1786 and was buried at Kelston, where a monument was created for him and his wife. 

Inscription for Caesar and his wife in the Kelston Church

Bynum, W.F. and Roy Porter. William Hunter and the Eighteenth-Century Medical World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
“Frequently Asked Questions.” National Association of Phlebotomists. Accessed June 6, 2015.
James, R.R. “Two celebrated Salopian surgeons.” Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. 4th ser., 6. 1916.
Lawrence, Susan C. Charitable Knowledge: Hospital Pupils and Practitioners in Eighteenth-Century London. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 202.
Payne, J. F. “Hawkins, Sir Caesar, first baronet (1711–1786).” Rev. Michael Bevan. In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman, January 2008. (accessed June 5, 2015).
Power, D'A. “Ranby, John (1703–1773).” Rev. Michael Bevan. In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman, 2004. (accessed June 5, 2015).
Young, Sidney. The annals of the barber-surgeons of London. London: Blades, East & Blades, 1890.

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