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Edward Rigby was born on 27 December 1747 at Chowbent in Lancashire, the son of Sarah and John. He was educated at Joseph Priestly's Academy in Warrington before being apprenticed to David Martineau, a surgeon in Norwich.1 He also attended Dr William Hunter's lectures in London before being admitted to the Corporation of Surgeons at the age of 22. That year, 1769, he began to practise in Norwich and just six years later in 1775 published his most important work: “An essay on uterine haemorrhage which precedes delivery of the full grown fetus”.2 It went through several English editions and was also published in France, Germany, America, Russia, and Italy, bringing him distinction at the young age of 29.
In his essay, Rigby gave the first description of premature separation of the normally implanted placenta. He termed this “accidental” haemorrhage, in contradistinction to the “unavoidable” haemorrhage from placenta praevia (fig 1). The experience he reported of 44 cases was excellent and not surpassed for more than a century. Of his 30 cases of accidental haemorrhage, 25 were treated by rupture of the membranes and 28 mothers and 20 of the children survived. Of the 14 cases of placenta praevia, he lost only one mother and six babies. By the sixth edition in 1822, his series had swelled to 106 cases (64 cases of accidental haemorrhage and 42 cases of placenta praevia). The following extract …