Robert William Smith


Robert William Smith (1807 – 1873) was an Irish Surgeon.

Prominent physician in Ireland, an astute linguist, medical historian and surgical pathologist publishing on topics ranging from arthritis to neuroma

Surgeon to Sir Patrick Duns Hospital was appointed the first chair of Surgery at Trinity College when it was established in 1847. Eponymously affiliated with the Smith Fracture


  • Born 12 October, Dublin
  • 1832 – Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland
  • 1838 – Co-founded the Pathological Society of Dublin along with Colles, Graves, Corrigan and Stokes
  • 1847 – First chair of surgery at Trinity College
  • 1847 – Published his treatise on fractures, described as ‘the most important work on fractures in English since Sir Astley Paston Cooper (1822)
  • 1849 – Smith published a monograph ‘A Treatise on the Pathology, Diagnosis and Treatment of Neuroma‘ containing an extensive review of the literature as well as his own observations. The book included a full description of generalized neurofibromatosis, including a description of von Recklinghausen syndrome (neurofibromatosis Type I) over 30 years before von Recklinghausen described it.
  • 1870 – Professor of Surgery at Trinity College, Dublin
  • 1873 – Vice-President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland
  • Died 28 October 1873, Dublin

It is, I conceive, the duty of every person who undertakes to write upon a given subject, to make himself, as far as possible, acquainted with, and also to acknowledge the labours of those who may have preceded him in the same field of inquiry

Smith, 1847

Medical Eponyms

Smith fracture (1847)

Extra-articular fracture of the distal radius with associated palmar (volar) angulation of the distal fracture fragment. Also called Goyrand fracture or reverse Colles fracture.


Although he practiced surgery, his primary interest was in pathological anatomy. His reputation as a pathologist was so great that Abraham Colles requested that Smith be called upon to perform Colles’ own autopsy. The autopsy was performed and later published by later published in William Stokes’s ‘Observations on the Case of the Late Abraham Colles

Major Publications


eponymictionary CTA 2


the person behind the name

Emergency physician MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM with a passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and informatics. Asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | vocortex |

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