Sir Dominic John Corrigan (1802 – 1880)

Sir Dominic John Corrigan, 1st Baronet (1802 – 1880) was an Irish physician and politician.

He is immortalised in numerous medical eponyms, including Corrigan pulse (1832), Corrigan disease (1832), Corrigan cirrhosis (1836), Corrigan button (1846), and Corrgian sign (1854), among multiple other published works on famine and cardiorespiratory disease.

Sir Corrigan was appointed Physician-in-Ordinary to Queen Victoria in Ireland (1847), Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University in Ireland, and president of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Royal Zoological Society Dublin, Dublin Pathological Society, and the Pharmaceutical Society of Dublin.

  • Born on December 1, 1802, in Dublin, Ireland
  • 1820 – Commenced medical studies at the School of Physic (Trinity College), University of Dublin
  • 1825 – M.D. from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland
  • 1826-1830 Medical assistant in the dispensary on Meath-street, Dublin; the Fever Hospital and House of Recovery, Cork-Street, and Jervis Street Charitable Infirmary, Dublin
  • 1831 – Consulting physician appointment at Maynooth Catholic College
  • 1833 – Lecturer in Medicine at Carmichael School
  • 1838 – Co-founded the Pathological Society of Dublin along with Smith, Colles, Graves, and Stokes
  • 1840-1856 Consulting physician to the House of Industry Hospitals (Whiteworth and Harwicke Hospitals) in Dublin
  • 1843 – MRCS (Eng) diploma (surgery)
  • 1847-1880 Honorary Physician-in-Ordinary appointment to the Queen of Ireland
  • 1849 – Awarded M.D. honoris causa degree by the University of Dublin
  • 1856 – Fellow of the King and Queen’s College of Physicians of Ireland
  • 1859 – Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland
  • 1859-1864 President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland
  • 1866 – Baronet of Cappagh and Inniscorrig, Dublin
  • 1870 – Physician-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria in Ireland
  • 1870-1874 Elected to the Liberal party of the Dublin Parliament
  • 1871 – Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University, Ireland
  • 1875 – President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland
  • Died on February 1, 1880 in Dublin, Ireland

Medical Eponyms
Corrigan sign I (1829)

Corrigan sign refers to the visible pulsation of the arteries of the upper extremity in patients with an aneurysm of the ascending aorta or aortic arch.

Corrigan identified the “visible pulsation of the arteries of the upper extremities” in three cases of aneurysm of the ascending aorta or its arch.

the first remarkable appearance that caught the eye, was a singular pulsation of all the arterial trunks of the upper part of the body. As his arms hung by his side, the whole tract of the brachial and carotid arteries was thrown out in strong relief, at each impulse of the heart, as if the vessels, from having been previously comparatively empty, had become suddenly filled.

Laennec reckons aneurism of the aorta one of three thoracic affections, which still remain in obscurity, notwithstanding the application of the stethoscope.

It is singular, that among the symptoms given by Corvisart and Laennec, there is no mention of the visible pulsation of the arteries of the upper extremities, so remarkable in this case. Three cases of aneurism of the ascending aorta, or its arch, are in my recollection; in each of them this was a prominent symptom

Corrigan 1829

Corrigan Pulse (1832)

In 1832, Corrigan described the exaggerated visible pulsations of head and upper extremity arteries, in addition to ‘Bruit de soufflet’ and ‘frémissement’ as the three physical signs of aortic regurgitation in the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal. He also briefly mentioned the ‘full pulse’ of aortic regurgitation in passing.

  • He observed the visible abrupt distension and collapse of the carotid, head, and superior extremity arteries in patients with permanent patency of the aortic mouth. Sir Corrigan explained that in aortic valve insufficiency, the ascending aorta and branching arteries lessen in diameter as blood regurgitates back into the left ventricle, which then suddenly and greatly dilates with ventricular contraction.
  • Bruit de soufflet (bellows murmur) was described by Corrigan as a pathognomonic sign best heard at the heart base and the great vessels. The accompanying frémissement was described as a palpated thrill in the carotid and subclavian arteries.

Sir Thomas Watson (1792 – 1882) likened the palpable pulse of AR to a Victorian toy called a water-hammer (lecture 1837; published 1842); which imparted to a child’s hands the same sensation of a collapsing pulse of aortic regurgitation [Lecture 60 (1842: 647)]

Corrigan disease (1832)

Aortic regurgitation. First use of the term Maladie de Corrigan for aortic regurgitation [Gazette des hôpitaux 1839:466]

C’est sûr tous ces signes reunis qUe nous avons basé notre diagnostic, et nous croyons pouvoir affiriner que cet homme est atteint de la maladie de Côrrigan, c’est à-diré’ de l’insuffisance des valvules sigmoïdes sans rétrécissement de l’orifice aortique.

Gazette des hôpitaux 1839:466

It is certain that all these signs are united, that we have based our diagnosis, and we believe we can affirm that this man is suffering from Corrigan’s disease, that is, the insufficiency of the aortic valves without narrowing of the aortic orifice

Gazette des hôpitaux 1839:466

Corrigan cirrhosis (1838)

Also known as Hamman-Rich syndrome, an acute diffuse idiopathic interstitial pulmonary fibrosis of unknown aetiology – now known as Acute Interstitial Pneumonia (AIP).

When Cirrhosis of the lung is fully formed, and that we have the signs in full perfection, there is then no longer any danger of confounding it with phthisis ; the very intensity of the local signs furnishes us with one of the diagnostic signs ; for while the local signs, such as dulness on percussion, pectoriloquy, gargouillement, and absence of respiration, would seem to point out rapid and confirmed phthisis, the non-accordance of constitutional disturbance in correspondence with such local signs, tells us that it is not to tubercular disease those signs are to be referred.

One of the most curious circumstances connected with this disease, is the compensating power for the contraction of one lung, which is to be found in the proportionate development of the opposite lung. In one case, the sound lung was increased by one-third, in another by one-half of its natural size. The slower the progress of the disease is, the more certainly will this compensatory development take place.

Corrigan 1838
Corrigan DJ. On cirrhosis of the lung 1838
Fig. 2 is a drawing of the lung of full size in this case, shewing cirrhosis of the lung in its confirmed state. It shews what an extreme degree of contraction the lung had undergone; the mass of the lung consisted of dense, whitish, firm, fibro-cellular tissue, marbled here and there by the remains of the natural colouring matter of the lung. B B B are the dilated culs de sac of the bronchial tubes. The space left by this extreme contraction of the lung was filled up, as already observed, by the displaced heart, by the increased development of the opposite lung, and by the protrusion upwards of the liver. Corrigan 1838

Corrigan button (1846)

A ‘counter-irritant’ form of treatment (for pretty much anything…) which Corrigan termed ‘Firing’ or scorching, rather, as distinguished from actual cauterization.

The iron used is portable, consisting of a thick iron-wire shank, about two inches long, inserted in a small wooden handle, having on its extremity, which is slightly curved, a disc or button of iron, a quarter of an inch thick, and half an inch in diameter, the whole instrument being six inches in length. The face of the disc for application is flat. This, trifling as it may seem, must be attended to. In the French cauterizing irons, the buttons for cauterizing are spherical, and the consequence is, that they must either be pressed long and deeply into the skin, to bring them in contact with an extent of surface equal to their diameter, or they can be made only to touch at a single point…

My friend Dr. Mitchell, Master of the Victoria Lying-in Hospital, consulted me some months since for a severe attack of lumbago. I applied the firing, and he was in one minute quite free from pain. He has since used it himself extensively in practice, and, I believe, he will shortly publish the results of his observations.

Lancet 1846; 47(1183): 497

Corrigan sign II (1854)

Purple-red line on the gum, pathogonomic of chronic copper poisoning. Corrigan reported on 7 cases of slow copper poisoning in 1854.

The suddenly dangerous, and occasionally fatal effects which have resulted from the use of food cooked in copper vessels imperfectly cleaned, or still more often from incautiously allowing food, after having been cooked, to remain in copper vessels, are now so well known, and so much dreaded, that cases of copper-poisoning from these causes are of very rare occurrence.

In all the cases of copper-poisoning which have come under my notice, there was exhibited a very peculiar feature, which does not appear to have been previously noticed, viz., an edging of rich purple on the margin of the gums of the incisor, canine, and bicuspid teeth of both jaws. This purple colouring of the margin of the gums coincides in situation precisely with the colouring produced by lead, but the tint of colour is so different as at once to decide whether it has proceeded from copper or from lead ; for while the colour produced by lead is of a pure blue, that from copper is a well marked purple, and even sometimes a reddish purple.

Corrigan; Slow Copper-Poisoning, 1854

Other eponyms
  • Corrigan respiration – Frequent shallow respiration associated with fever
  • Corrigan Hammer

Major Publications



Eponymous terms


Graduated Medicine in 2020 from Queens University Belfast. Interested in Internal Medicine.

Doctor in Australia. Keen interest in internal medicine, medical education, and medical history.

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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