John Keats (1795-1821): Physician and Surgeon

Soon after his mother died in 1810, John Keats at the age of 14 was apprenticed to a local physician. In 1815, he then registered as a medical student at Guy’s Hospital in London and was soon promoted to the equivalent of a junior resident, assisting surgeons there. In 1816 he received his license to practice as a physician and seemed headed for a medical career. Poetry had the stronger attraction for him but his memories of his hospital experience did not leave him. They show up in the third stanza of his 1818 “Ode to a Nightingale” where he remembers “…the weariness, the fever, and the fret, Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs… Where but to think is to be full of sorrow And leaden-eye despairs….” The hospital also doubtless exposed him to the tuberculosis that killed him a few years later, a tragic end that was not unique to physicians of that era.

Submitted by Ron Fishman MD of the Cogan Ophthalmic History Society.

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Jan 8, 2017 | Posted by in OPHTHALMOLOGY | Comments Off on John Keats (1795-1821): Physician and Surgeon

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