BEAUMONT, WILLIAM RAWLINS, surgeon; b. 1803 in Marylebone, London, England; d. 12 Oct. 1875 in Toronto.
William Rawlins Beaumont received his medical education at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London where he served as dresser to the distinguished surgeon, John Abernethy, whose teaching established the modern medical school in this ancient hospital. There Beaumont was a fellow-student of James Paget. He continued his training in Europe, studying for ten months in Paris under the anatomist Jean Amussat, who stimulated his interest in mechanical instruments. Returning to London, Beaumont commenced practice and was appointed a surgeon to the Islington Dispensary. He qualified as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1826 and became a fellow of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London in 1836 and of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1844. Beaumont’s hopes of receiving a commission in the Army Medical Service had been disappointed, and he came instead to Canada in 1841. He was already a highly competent surgeon when he established himself in Toronto in that year.
A faculty of medicine was established at King’s College (later the University of Toronto) in 1843, and Beaumont was appointed professor of surgery by the chancellor, Governor General Sir Charles Bagot*; he became a member of the college council in 1848. He was also an attending physician and surgeon to the Toronto General Hospital, and in 1845 he was appointed to the Medical Board, the body responsible for the examination and licensing of candidates for medical practice in Canada West. The University of Toronto conferred a doctor of medicine on Beaumont in 1850. He was dean of the faculty of medicine at the university when the legislature abolished it in 1853, but continued clinical teaching at the Toronto General Hospital and became its consulting physician and surgeon when Christopher Widmer* died in 1858. In 1870 and 1871 he lectured on ophthalmic surgery at the Toronto School of Medicine, and was appointed professor of surgery at the University of Trinity College in 1871. He retired in 1873 and was made professor emeritus at Trinity College.
Beaumont established an outstanding reputation in Toronto as a teacher and a surgeon. After Widmer’s death he was probably the doyen of the surgeons of Toronto. Younger surgeons sought his support and he was closely associated in his practice with James Bovell and Edward Mulberry Hodder. Beaumont’s published articles illustrate the broad scope of his practice and discuss such varied subjects as aneurism, ophthalmic surgery, and urology. He had particular skill in designing surgical instruments. One of these, designed for the passing of continuous sutures in deep-seated parts, is said to have embodied the concept later applied in the original Singer sewing machine.
Beaumont lost the sight of his left eye in 1865, but continued to practise until he became totally blind in 1873. He died in his home in Toronto on 12 Oct. 1875. Sir William Osler* recalled him as one who “by examplifying [sic] those graces of life and refinement of heart which make up character” contributed to “the leaven which has raised our profession above the dead level of business.”
W. R. Beaumont, “Cases of operations for cataract, chiefly at the Toronto General Hospital,” Upper Canada Journal of Medical, Surgical, and Physical Science (Toronto), I (1851–52), 329–32, 361–65, 407–11, 510–15; [ ], “A description of a new instrument for closing the vesico-vaginal and recto-vaginal fistulae, and fissures of the soft palate . . . ,” Medico-Chirurgical Transactions (Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London), XXI (1838), 29–32; “Lithotrity,” Canada Lancet (Toronto), III (1870–71), 35; [ ], “Rough notes of a clinical lecture, delivered by Dr Beaumont, F.R.C.S., London, and one of the surgeons to the Toronto General Hospital, on a case of false aneurism. Reported from memory,” Upper Canada Journal of Medical, Surgical, and Physical Science (Toronto), III (1853–54), 251–58.
MTCL, typescript by J. H. Richardson, “Reminiscences of the medical profession in Toronto,” 5–7. University of Toronto Archives, Office of the Chief Accountant financial records (117, King’s College Council minute book, III, 184–42). Canada Lancet (Toronto), VIII (1875–76), 92–93.
Canniff, Medical profession in Upper Canada, 183–96, 199, 204–6, 214, 242–45. C. K. Clarke, A history of the Toronto General Hospital, including an account of the medal of the Loyal and Patriotic Society of 1812 (Toronto, 1913), 52, 62, 81, 103. William Osler, Aequanimitas, with other addresses to medical students, nurses and practitioners of medicine (London, 1904), 175–76, 369. G. W. Spragge, “The Trinity Medical School,” Ont. Hist., LVIII (1966), 63–98.