Philip Delagarde

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Philip Chilwell Delagarde 1797-1871 Surgeon

Philip Delagarde was the son of Philippe de La Garde, Rector of St Martin, and Sarah Chilwell, daughter of Jonathan, of Kent, and grandson of Charles de La Garde, Rector of Grouville for 50 years.

He was educated at Exeter Grammar School and apprenticed to surgeons Peppin and Barnes in Exeter. After Barnes's retirement Delagarde became the most popular surgeon in the West of England, He was Mayor of Exeter from 1834 to 1836.

He married Susan Lempriere, daughter of the Rev John.


Obituary from the British Medical Journal 1871:

Early years

"He was born at Chelsea in I797, and there his father died when he was a year old. He was an only child, and passed his early years with his mother in the neighbourhood of Exeter. Mr. Delagarde received his classical education at the Exeter Grammar School during the time that Dr Lempriere (also a member of a Jersey family, and the author of the Classical Dictionary) was its Master. On leaving school (I813), he became a pupil of Mr Sydenham Peppin; and in I816, on Mr. Peppin's death, of Mr Samuel Barnes. As their pupil, he enjoyed the advantages offered by the Devon and Exeter Hospital, of which they were both surgeons. He thence proceeded to St Bartholomew's Hospital, where his residence in London, was the resident House-Surgeon. He became a member of the College of Surgeons in I8I9.
"In I820, he took up his residence in Exeter, styling himself "surgeon-oculist", and commenced general practice. He was early elected one of the three medical officers to the Corporation of the Poor. He soon acquired an extensive practice amongst the wealthy families of the city. In 1836, he was appointed Mr Barnes's coadjutor at the Eye Infirmary; and henceforth became deeply interested in the practical details of ophthalmic surgery. He had already (I820) published a treatise on Cataract. He was an advocate, as was Mr. Barnes, for the cure of cataract by absorption and depression, and never resorted to extraction until within the last two years. He then adopted the linear incision of Von Graefe's operation, but preferred to open the capsule before making the section of the cornea, and sometimes removed the lens with a scoop without removing any iris, with a result equal to that of the flap-operation as to regularity of pupil. He showed to the members of the Association, at the last branch meeting in Exeter, a patient on whom he had performed this operation with very good result.
"In I84I, on the death of Mr S Luscombe, the senior surgeon of the Devon and Exeter Hospital, he was elected Surgeon. He had long been ambitious to occupy the position and fulfil the duties of a Surgeon; and he repeatedly regretted that he was so far advanced in life (43) before he succeeded to the public exercise of these duties. Until then, there had been no vacancy in the surgical staff of the hospital for twenty-five years.

Honorary Fellow

"In I845, he was selected as one of the hundred and fifty first Honorary Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons. He was a good anatomist and operator. Though his hand was perhaps less delicately expert than it might have been, had he from early life practised operative surgery, yet his self-confident and well-established knowledge rendered him a safe and successful operator. His opinion was ever felt to be such as could be relied on. He was an assiduous and careful observer of modern surgical progress, and always adopted such of the new suggestions in practice as appeared to him beneficial. His last operation was in furtherance of conservative surgery - the resection of a knee-joint. He practised midwifery reluctantly; and ever maintained that it would be a good thing for the profession to be disembarrassed of it.
"In the exercise of his profession, he was conscientious and painstaking, and, for the good of his patients, neglected no effort. For the poor who were under his care, whether in the Eye Infirmary or the County Hospital, his first and chief solicitude was shown. At times, there was perhaps a hasty manifestation of anger; but it was only momentary, and soon passed away. Though apparently calm and quiet, he was excitable and singularly emotional. An act of injustice towards a personal friend would arouse his indignation, as the contemplation of pain or the tale of distress experienced by others would often move him to tears.
"A few months before his death, he delivered his last public address as President of the South-Western Branch, giving short accounts of some of the more distinguished physicians and surgeons that had preceded him in Exeter. When he came to speak of those with whom he had been personally associated, and for whom he entertained veneration and esteem, his voice and his manner evinced the susceptibility of his mind.
"Mr Delagarde was well versed in the more solid literature of the day. He often contributed short papers to the medical journals. His writings were essentially practical, and filled with details of cases that had passed under his own observation. The most conspicuous type of these was the address on Surgery which he delivered at Torquay in 1860 before the British Medical Association. He also took great interest in archbeological investigations, and was one of the founders of the Exeter Diocesan Architectural Association. He contributed papers not only to its Transactions, but to the Archaeologia, and to the Transactions of the Institute of Civil Engineers; one of his contributions, a history of the Exeter Canal, obtained for him the Telford medal.

Sheriff and Mayor

"In the earlier part of his career, he was a member of the old borough corporation. He was Sheriff in I832, and, in 1834, Mayor - the last under the old charter. After the passing of the Municipal Reform Bill in I836, he only on rare occasions spoke in public, and then chiefly on matters connected with his profession. In his diction, he was clear, distinct, and elegant; lucid in arrangement, and self-contained; fluent, and impressive.
"He was simple in his tastes, and unostentatious; content with the qluiet social sphere in which he moved He was an English gentleman of the good old fashion; punctilious even in his observance of the unwritten laws of honour; high-minded and independent, staunch to his principles, and of sterling integrity.
"In person he was about the middle height, somewhat spare, firmly built, and, for his size, of great muscular power. For many years, he performed his professional journeys on foot or on horseback, but in late years, attacks of lumbago, and then of bronchitis, obliged him to use a carriage. His features were marked, sbarp, and somewhat hard. Latterly, he had adopted the fashion of a beard.
"He continued in the active exercise of his profession to the last, and may be said to have died in harness. An early summons to an old patient on the 17th of September, was the cause of an illness that attacked him in the course of the day whilst at the Hospital. With difficulty he walked home to occupy the bed from which he never again rose. Naturally of a strong constitution, his physical strength only gradually failed. He retained his mental faculties to the last.
"In 1826, he married Susan, the second daughter of his old schoolmaster, the Rev Dr Lempriere. She died just one year before him. Of five children, two daughters survive him. His eldest son died early. His second son had given an early promise of a bright career; and Mr Delagarde had ardently hoped that he would succeed him in the estimation of the public as a surgeon. For a few years, he was his father's coadjutor at the Eye Infirmary, but died before him at the age of 35, leaving an only child, a son, to carry on the name.
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