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Astley Cooper


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Sir Astley Paston Cooper, 1st Baronet (August 23, 1768–February 12, 1841), English surgeon and anatomist, who made historical contributions to otology, vascular surgery, the anatomy and pathology of the mammary glands and testicles, and the pathology and surgery of hernia.


Cooper was born at the village of Brooke in Norfolk on August 23, 1768. His father, Dr. Samuel Cooper, was a clergyman of the Church of England; his mother was the author of several novels. At the age of sixteen he was sent to London and placed under Henry Cline (1750-1827), surgeon to St. Thomas' Hospital. From the first he devoted himself to the study of anatomy, and had the privilege of attending the lectures of John Hunter. In 1789 he was appointed demonstrator of anatomy at St. Thomas's Hospital, where in 1791 he became joint lecturer with Cline in anatomy and surgery, and in 1800 he was appointed surgeon to Guy's Hospital on the death of his uncle, William Cooper.

In 1802 he received the Copley Medal for two papers read before the Royal Society of London on the destruction of the tympanic membrane; and in 1805 he was elected a Fellow of that society. In the same year he took an active part in the formation of the Medical and Chirurgical Society of London, and in 1804 he brought out the first, and in 1807 the second, part of his great work on hernia, which added so largely to his reputation that in 1813 his annual professional income rose to 21,000 pounds sterling. In the same year he was appointed professor of comparative anatomy to the Royal College of Surgeons and was very popular as a lecturer.

In 1817 he performed his famous operation of tying the abdominal aorta for aneurism; and in 1820 he removed an infected sebaceous cyst from the head of King George IV. About six months afterwards received a baronetcy, which, as he had no son, was to descend to his nephew and adopted son, Astley Cooper. He was subsequently appointed sergeant surgeon to King George IV, King William IV and Queen Victoria. He served as president of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1827 and again in 1836, and he was elected a vice-president of the Royal Society in 1830. He died on the February 12, 1841 in London, and was interred, by his own desire, beneath the chapel of Guy's Hospital. A statue by Edward Hodges Baily was erected in St Paul's Cathedral.

Cooper lived at Gadebridge House in the market town of Hemel Hempstead. Due to his influence, among others who were also residents of the area, his vigorous lobbying ensured that the London to Birmingham main railway line was constructed to the south of the town instead of through it, a more natural course. This led to the citizens of Hemel Hempstead having no railway station in their town, instead being obliged to use the one situated at Boxmoor.

Today, Cooper is remembered in the area with a number of local street names, and The Astley Cooper School, formerly Grovehill school, being renamed after him in 1984. The grounds of his former home are now a public park.


Sir Astley's greatest contribution has probably been in the field of vascular surgery, particularly on cerebral circulation. He was the first to demonstrate experimentally the effects of bilateral ligation of the carotid arteries in dogs and to propose treatment of aneurysms by ligation of the vessel. In 1805 he published in the first volume of Medico-Chirurgical Transactions his attempt to tie the common carotid artery for treating an aneurysm in a patient. In 1808 he tried the same with the external iliac artery for a femoral aneurysm and in 1817 he ligated the aorta for an iliac aneurysm.

Cooper was an indefatigable and original anatomist and described several new anatomical structures, many of which were named after him:

  • Cooper's fascia, a covering of the spermatic cord.
  • Cooper's pubic ligament, the superior pubic ligament.
  • Cooper's stripes, a fibrous structure in the ulnar ligaments.
  • Cooper's ligaments, the suspensory ligaments of the breasts.

He also described a number of new diseases, which likewise became eponymous:

  • Cooper's testis (neuralgia of the testicles)
  • Cooper's disease (benign cysts of the breast)
  • Cooper's hernia (retroperitoneal hernia)
  • Cooper's neuralgia (neuralgia of the breast)

His chief published works were:

  • Anatomy and Surgical Treatment of Hernia (1804-1807);
  • Dislocations and Fractures (1822);
  • Lectures on Surgery (1824-1827);
  • Illustrations of Diseases of the Breast (1829);
  • Anatomy of the Thymus Gland (1832);
  • Anatomy of the Breast (1840).


  • Life of Sir A. Cooper, by B. B. Cooper (1843).
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
Preceded by
Edward Charles Howard
Copley Medal
Succeeded by
William Hyde Wollaston
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New creation
(of Gadebridge)
Succeeded by
Astley Paston Cooper
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Astley_Cooper". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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