Ref NoRCSI/IP/Wallace
TitleWilliam Wallace Papers
Date1791 - 1879
Extent And Medium13 notebooks, 8 books, 1 booklet, 372 folios, 2 envelopes
DescriptionThis collection comprises of patient catalogues, patient illustrations and published material that are related to William Wallace's medical career and specifically his study of skin diseases. The illustrations include graphic images of sexual organs.
Admin_Biographical_HistoryDr. William Wallace (1791-1837)

William Wallace was born in 1791 in Downpatrick, Co. Down to James Wallace and Elizabeth Ledlie. Little is known about Wallace's childhood. At the age of 17 decided to study medicine and was indentured to Dr. Charles Bowden of the Apothecaries Hall in Dublin. Two years later in 1810 he enrolled in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland as a medical student. Wallace worked as an apprentice to Charles Hawkes Todd, lecturer in Anatomy. Todd was also surgeon to the Richmond and Lock Hospitals, both had large numbers of patients with venereal and skin disease. Wallace, as Todd's apprentice, tended to these patients and it was here it 'gave to my mind its first bias to study of cutaneous and venereal diseases'. Wallace received his License from the RCSI on 8 June 1813 and he immediately travelled to London for postgraduate study. Wallace became a pupil of Thomas Bateman, who was in turn a pupil of Robert Willan and one of the chief founders of modern dermatology. Wallace was also a pupil of John Pearson in the London Lock Hospital and Carey Street Dispensary. Carey Street Dispensary was a charitable institution and one that dealt with high numbers of patients with skin diseases. Wallace was working in one of the leading centres for the study of cutaneous diseases in the medical world at that time with one of the leading experts in that field, Bateman. Wallace studied under Dr. Joseph Adams, an expert in venereal disease and physician to the Inoculation and Small Pox Hospital in London. It was here that Wallace became learned in the art of inoculation and vaccination.

In 1817 Wallace returned to Dublin to establish himself in the medical world there. He married Maryanne Green, a daughter of Sir Jonah Green, the Recorder of Dublin. The city Wallace returned to had a population that was increasing at an alarming rate as the poor migrated towards the city. There were no sanitation facilities, conditions were squalid and poverty rife. Wallace hoped to establish a hospital, the Dublin Infirmary for the Investigation and Treatment of Diseases of the Skin, similar to those he had worked in in London. Public funds were not allocated to such ventures so he had to raise support through subscriptions from wealthy citizens. Wallace opened up the Dublin Skin Infirmary at 20 Moore Street and dealt with over 1,775 patients in its first year of operation. Advice, medicines, medicated baths and the use of 'Fumigation Apparatus' were all given free of charge. The hospital dealt with such diseases as scabies, leprosy, measles, scarlet fever, ringworm, tuberculosis of the skin, impetigo and venereal diseases. By 1837 it was recorder that 25,000 cases had been dealt with by the Dublin Skin Infirmary. International dermatologists referred to the work being carried out by Wallace of Dublin. He was recognised for his innovative use of potassium iodide in the treatment of venereal diseases. Wallace studied the skin of an African man, Thomas Nichol, who had suffered from frost bite and had scarring that left his skin white in places. He wanted to understand how the affected skin would lose its colouring when scarred. At this time Wallace was carrying out experiments to find out the causes, incubation periods, reasons for and ways of spreading etc. of venereal disease. In order to do so he purposely (unknowingly to the patient in most cases) infected people with diseases and watched their progress. Wallace stood by his experiments, though not widely accepted at the time, because he was gaining knowledge in how better to combat and inoculate against venereal disease.

On 2 December 1837 Wallace visited a patient who was suffering from typhus fever. Within a week William Wallace had died from typhus fever. He was 47 years old.
FormatMixed
CopyrightContact the RCSI Heritage Collections
Access_StatusOpen
Access ConditionsBy appointment with RCSI Heritage Collections
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