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Dr Edward Rigby, junior, of London (1804–1860) and his system of midwifery
  1. Peter M Dunn
  1. Department of Child Health, University of Bristol, Southmead Hospital, Southmead, Bristol BS10 5NB, UK
  1. Professor Dunn email: p.m.dunn{at}

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Edward Rigby was born with a twin sister in Norwich on 1 August 1804. His father was a distinguished physician-accoucheur of that city and his mother the daughter of William Palgrave of Yarmouth. He was educated at Norwich Grammar School where one of his great friends was the future Rajah of Sarawak, Sir James Brooke. Although his first choice was to go to sea, it was decided that he should become a doctor, and, after a year as a pupil at the Norwich and Norfolk Hospital, he studied medicine at Edinburgh University from 1822 to 1825. Having graduated MD on his 21st birthday, he then studied anatomy in Dublin before spending four years in Germany studying midwifery, first in Berlin and then with Professor F C Naegele in Heidelberg. Naegele had just published his important essay On the mechanism of parturition which Rigby translated and then published on his return to England in 1829. This book, one of the classics of obstetric literature, had a considerable influence on British midwifery. Rigby's next two years were spent as house-pupil at the Westminster Lying-in Hospital and in obtaining membership of the College of Physicians (FRCP 1843). In 1831 he was appointed lecturer in midwifery at St Thomas's Hospital and entered practice as a physician-accoucheur (fig 1). Other appointments at the Westminster Lying-in Hospital and at St Bartholomew's Hospital followed (where his colleague was Dr Charles West), and in 1841 he was appointed Examiner in Midwifery at the University of London, a post he held until his death.1

Figure 1

Edward Rigby, junior (1804–1860).

Rigby wrote several books on midwifery including an annotated 2nd edition of William Hunter's Anatomical description of the gravid human uterus (1843). However, none were as important as his System of midwifery 2 published in London and Philadelphia in 1841. …

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