Thomas Cuming

Thomas Cuming (1798-1887) was a Northern Irish physician.

Cuming was a renowned physician, with an interest in fevers and paediatric diseases. He published important works on cancrum oris (Observations on an affection of the mouth in children, 1827), and on peripneumonia in children (1828).

He is acknowledged for some of the earliest comprehensive descriptions of aortic insufficiency, including the vibrating pulse, visible arterial pulsation, anginal pain and left heart failure, and correlating with post-mortem findings of a case published in 1822.

  • Born on March 19, 1798, Armagh, Northern Ireland
  • 1819 – Graduated with M.D. from the University of Edinburgh
  • 1820 – Physician to the Dublin General Dispensary
  • 1826-29 – Physician to the Wellesley Fever Hospital in Dublin; assistant physician to the Institution for Diseases of Children, Pitt Street; and lecturer at the Richmond School of Medicine
  • 1829 – Returned to Armagh to practice medicine, where he became renowned through his contributions to an epidemic of fever and cholera.
  • 1854 – Conferred M.D. from the University of Dublin
  • 1854 – Fellow of the King and Queen’s College of Physicians of Ireland two years before Corrigan, who had previously been blackballed for the Fellowship in 1847.
  • Died on September 4, 1887 in Armagh, Northern Ireland

Medical Eponyms
Cuming sign (1822)

Not a sign, but an early and thorough description of a single case of aortic insufficiency with post-mortem examination from 1820. Cuming published this case of a 38 year old man with his findings in a paper titled ‘A case of diseased heart’ (1822) in the Dublin Hospital Reports.

During and in the intervals of the paroxysms he had constant pulsation of the heart and large arteries; and the pulsations were so strong as to be visible from a considerable distance…The pulse at the wrist was regular, full, hard and vibrating

Cuming 1822: 320

At post mortem performed by Dr Charles Johnson, and in the presence of Cuming

The great increase of size was in the left ventricle, whose cavity was so much enlarged, as to admit of the hand being turned round in it with facility. The parietes of the left ventricle were thinner than natural…The valves of the aorta presented a shrivelled appearance; their margins were irregular, thickened, and of a cartilaginous consistence.

Cuming 1822: 327

Cuming explained his pathologic findings by relating the valve disease to its effects on left ventricular function.

The state of the aortic valves seems sufficient to account for the dilatation of the ventricle…they were consequently when-applied to one another incapable of closing up entirely the ventriculo- aortic aperture. During each diastole of the ventricle, therefore, a quantity of blood flowed back through this aperture from the artery which meeting the stream of blood flowing at the same time from the auricle, occasioned a violent and supernatural effort in the ventricle to empty itself of its contents

Cuming 1822: 329

Major Publications




Dr Lorcán Oliver LITFL author

MB BCh BAO MSc. I am currently working as an ED RMO in Perth, Australia. I completed my NHS Foundation Training in Northern Ireland before flying to Australia and embracing the outdoor lifestyle it has to offer. I have enjoyed competing for my County Hurling and Gaelic Football teams, and have always taken a keen interest in sports. I am a keen traveller and look forward to exploring more of the continent.

As a fluent Irish speaker, I always try to use my Gaeilge chomh minic agus is feidir!


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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