John Rhea Barton

John Rhea BARTON

John Rhea Barton (1794 – 1871) was an American Orthopedic Surgeon.

Eponymously associated with Barton fracture. Considered a pioneer of modern osteotomies. Recorded to have performed an intertrochanteric osteotomy, without anaesthesia, in only seven minutes.

Talented ambidextrous surgeon. Performed first hip arthroplasty in 1826 – Pennsylania Hospital, Philadelphia. His widow endowed the first surgical chair in the United States, the John Rhea Barton Professor of Surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania


  • Born April 1794, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
  • 1813 – Appointed as an apprentice to Philip Syng Physick, known as ‘The Father of American Surgery
  • 1818 – Graduated from medical training at Pennsylvania Hospital
  • 1820 – Surgeon at Philadelphia Almshouse
  • 1823 – Surgeon at Pennsylvania Hospital
  • 1838 – First described the Barton fracture
  • Died January 1 1871, Philadelphia

Medical Eponyms

Key Medical Attributions

  • Barton is best appreciated as the pioneer of corrective osteotomy for joint ankylosis
  • 1824 – First account published in America of an operation for imperforate anus
  • 1826 – Performed first subtrochanteric osteotomy on an ankylosed hip
  • 1827 – Performed a femoral osteotomy between the greater and lesser trochanters to secure motion in an ankylosed hip. This was hailed the first successful arthroplasty.
  • 1834 – Wired a fractured patella in the same year as Lister
  • 1839 – First account published in America regarding the use of a seton to ‘cure’ a recto-vaginal fistula.


  • In the original description, Barton discussed the posterior marginal fracture only.
  • Barton was criticized by Joseph François Malgaigne (1806-1865) in 1859, and later Lewis Atterbury Stimson (1844-1917) in 1883, for not using autopsy specimens. They hypothesised that Barton had most likely observed Colles-type fractures and paid tribute to Lenoir, a member of Dupuytren’s study group, who demonstrated this fracture type during autopsy.

Major Publications


  • Hayes Agnew D. Biographical sketch of Dr John Rhea Barton Delivered at the Academy of Music at the annual commencement of the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania, 1878
  • Jupiter JB, Fernandez DL. Comparative classification for fractures of the distal end of the radius. J Hand Surg Am. 1997 Jul;22(4):563-71. [PMID 9260608]
  • Fernandez DL, Jupiter JB. The Fracture of the Distal End of the Radius: An Historical Perspective. In: Fractures of the Distal Radius: A Practical Approach to Management. Springer. 2002:1-21
  • Di Matteo B. John Rhea Barton: the birth of osteotomy. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2013 Sep;21(9):1957-62. doi: 10.1007/s00167-013-2387-1. Epub 2013 Jan 19. [PMID 23334626]
  • Hernigou P. Earliest times before hip arthroplasty: from John Rhea Barton to Themistocles Glück. Int Orthop. 2013 Nov; 37(11): 2313–2318.. [PMC 3824904]
  • Malgaigne J. A Treatise on Fractures. [Translated by John Packard] Philadelphia: Lippincott. 1859:53
  • Stimson LA. A Treatise on Fractures. Philadelphia: H.C. Lea. 1883:453

eponymictionary CTA 2


the person behind the name

Dr Josh Howard - wannabe future orthopod, finding myself in Australia | LinkedIn

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