Robert James Graves

Robert James Graves

Robert James Graves (1796 – 1853) was an Irish physician.

Significant contributions to the Irish School of Medicine along with other eponymous luminaries such as Stokes and Corrigan

Renowned polyglot with proficient linguistic skills and a talented artist

  • Born 27 March 1796, Son of Richard Graves Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Dublin
  • 1818 – Medical degree, University of Dublin.
  • 1819 – Studied in London, Berlin, Paris, Gottingen, Copenhagen and Vienna
  • 1821 – Physician to the Meath Hospital, Dublin
  • 1824 – One of the founders of the Park Street School of medicine
  • 1835 – Described exophthalmic goitre (Graves disease)
  • 1838 – Co-founded the Pathological Society of Dublin along with Smith, Colles, Corrigan and Stokes
  • 1843 – President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland
  • 1849 – Fellow of the Royal Society of London
  • Co-founder of the Dublin Journal of Medical Science
  • Died 20 March 1853

Medical Eponyms
Graves disease (1835)

[*aka Basedow disease, Parry disease]

Graves delivered a series of lectures at the Meath Hospital, Dublin in 1834–1835. In his lecture ‘Newly Observed Affection of the Thyroid Gland in Females‘ Graves describes three patients with goitre and palpitations. A fourth patient, seen by seen by his colleague Sir William Stokes was a ‘lady aged twenty, affected with some symptoms which were supposed to be hysterical‘ exhibited the additional sign of exophthalmos. This young lady presented with palpitations, swelling of the thyroid and nervousness…

…the eyeballs were visibly enlarged, to such a degree the eyelids were unable to shut during sleep and when trying to close the eye. When the eyes were open the white of the eyes could be seen in the breadth of several lines around all of cornea.

Graves, 1835; 517

Graves Ophthalmopathy – constellation of findings, apparent in 25- 50% of patients with Graves disease.

Key Medical Attributions

Guillain- Barré syndrome (1843) Graves observed the remarkable and obscure, epidemic of acute sensori-motor polyneuropathy in Paris during the summer of 1828. This was first described by Auguste-Francois Chomel (1828) as the epidemie de Paris. Graves’s first account was in 1843 in his Clinical Lectures

Angioneurotic edema [*aka Quincke’s disease] Graves provided an early description of ‘fugitive inflammation‘ in his lectures on gout in 1843


Graves’ proficiency in German lead to his arrest in Austria as a spy because no “Englishman” could speak German as well as he did

Graves had long been heralded as the uncredited inventor of the second-hand on watches. However his role was only to extol the virtues of the second hand in the accurate assessment of the pulse in the clinical setting…it was English physician Sir John Floyer (1649-1734), in 1707 who invented the pulsometer watch and therefore the seconds hand.

Floyer was renowned for his work on the study of the pulse and believed understanding a patient’s pulse was fundamental to elucidating a diagnosis. He developed the pulsometer watch with London watchmaker, Samuel Watson. It enabled him to become the first physician to study the pulse in his clinical practice. He published The Physician’s Pulse-watch Volume I 1707 and Volume II 1710.

Major Publications



Eponymous terms

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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