Thomas Radford and Obstetrical Teaching

Thomas Radford spent his working life in Manchester and dedicated much of his time to St Mary’s Hospital for Women and Children and to the teaching of midwifery. He taught at the schools of two of the city’s pioneers of medical education, Joseph Jordan and Thomas Turner, as well as privately from his own practice. Over the years he collected an extensive library and numerous medical specimens, mostly related to the field of midwifery and obstetrics, which he later donated to St Mary’s Hospital.


The Radford Library was donated to the University in the early 20th century and many of Radford’s manuscripts, both his own and those he collected, form part of the Manchester Medical Manuscripts Collection which was catalogued earlier this year. The University also owns a number of illustrations that formed part of Radford’s collections and will be catalogued in the coming year as part of a Wellcome Trust funded project. The drawings are nearly all obstetrical and vary in their detail. It is clear that a number of them have been produced to assist teaching and illustrate key points whilst others may have been bought by Radford to add to his extensive collections.

Captions on the reverse of the drawings explain exactly what they were intended to represent and how they may have been used in teaching:

“Represents a case of double uterus, one of which is gravid”

“Represents a gravid uterus at full period in the cavity of which (flooding having occurred during labour) a large coagulum was found. Specimen of internal flooding.”

Whilst much of the material that forms part of the Manchester Medical Manuscripts Collection has a great deal to offer in terms of the study of early medical teaching in Manchester some of Radford’s manuscripts offer a slightly different perspective. Most of the other lecture notes in the collection were written either by students or professional copyists whereas the surviving notes from Radford’s midwifery lectures are written in his hand with details of the cases he intended to use to illustrate specific points. Combined with the surviving medical illustrations that filled his museum and served as teaching aids, we get a rare insight into early 19th-century medical education in Manchester from the perspective of the teacher.

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