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Royal College of Physicians

SIEVEKING, Sir Edward Henry (1816-1904)


Reference code(s): GB 0113 MS-SIEVE

Held at: Royal College of Physicians

Title: SIEVEKING, Sir Edward Henry (1816-1904)

Date(s): 1846-1960

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 9 volumes; 1.5 archival boxes

Name of creator(s): Sieveking | Sir | Edward Henry | 1816-1904 | Knight | physician


Administrative/Biographical history:

Sir Edward Henry Sieveking was born in Bishopsgate, London, on 24 August 1816, the eldest son of Edward Henry Sieveking, a merchant from Hamburg who had moved to London in 1809. His father had returned to Germany and served in the Hanseatic Legion during the War of Liberation, 1813-14. Sieveking's early education took place in England. From 1830 he was educated in Germany, in Ratzeburg and Berlin. In 1837 he entered the University of Berlin where he studied anatomy and physiology, the latter under the celebrated physiologist Johannes Peter Muller. In 1838 he undertook surgical work at Bonn. He then returned to England where he took up his medical studies at University College, London, for two years, and then at the University of Edinburgh, where he graduated MD in 1841.

Sieveking spent a further year abroad in 1842, visiting the hospitals of Paris, Vienna, Wurzburg, and Berlin. He then settled and began to practice in the English colony in Hamburg. Whilst there he was associated with founding a children's hospital, with his aunt Miss Emilia Sieveking, philanthropist and pioneer of nursing. During this time he published A Treatise on Ventilation (1846). In 1847 he returned to London and became a member of the Royal College of Physicians. He began to practice in London, first in Brook Street and then in Bentinck Street. He took an active part in advocating nursing the sick poor, and produced his first English publication, The Training Institutions for Nurses and the Workhouses (1849).

In 1851 Sieveking became assistant physician at St Mary's Hospital, and so one of its original staff. He lectured on materia medica at the Hospital's medical school for the next sixteen years. In 1852 he became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. Two years later he co-authored A Manual of Pathological Anatomy (1854; 2nd edition, 1875), with Charles Handfield Jones, his colleague at St Mary's. The publication was illustrated with reproductions of Sieveking's watercolours. In 1855 Sieveking assisted John Lumsden Propert in founding Epsom College, a school for the sons of medical men, and was its first honorary secretary. From 1855 until 1860 he edited the British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review. He also contributed to many other medical periodicals, especially on the subjects of nervous diseases, climatology, and nursing. In 1857 he moved to Manchester Square, London, where he remained for the rest of his life.

In 1858 Sieveking invented an aesthesiometer, an instrument for testing the sensation on the skin. In the same year he published his most important work, On Epilepsy and Epileptiform Seizures, their Causes, Pathology, and Treatment (2nd edition, 1861). He was a supporter of the reforms of the Royal College of Physicians of that year, which gave powers, such as the election of the president, formerly enjoyed by the eight elect of the College, to the whole body of fellows. In 1861 he was elected president of the Harveian Society, a reflection of his status and reputation within the medical world.

In 1863 he was appointed physician in ordinary to the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. The following year he was appointed physician to the London Lock Hospital and the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic. It was also in 1864 that he founded, with the scientist Sir David Brewster and the physician Charles Murchison, the Edinburgh University Club in London. He was promoted to full physician of St Mary's in 1866, after sixteen years in the out-patient wards. In the same year he delivered the Croonian Lectures at the Royal College of Physicians. Sieveking held a number of prominent positions within the College including that of censor, several times between 1869 and 1881, and in 1877 was Harveian Orator.

In 1873 Sieveking became physician extraordinary to Queen Victoria. He was also a member of the council of the British Medical Association, representing for eight years the Metropolitan Counties Branch. In 1876 he delivered the Address in Medicine at the annual meeting in Sheffield. He was largely responsible for the creation of the Association's medal for distinguished merit, established in 1877. In 1884 he received an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh, on its tercentenary. Two years later Sieveking was knighted. He retired from the active staff of St Mary's in 1887, and became consulting physician. The following year he was elected vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians, and president of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society. Also in 1888 Queen Victoria made him physician in ordinary. The following year he retired from the London Lock Hospital.

In 1895 Sieveking became president of the British Balneological and Climatological Society. He was made Knight of Grace of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, in 1896. Edward VII, after his accession to the throne, made Sieveking his physician extraordinary in 1902.

He had married, in 1849, Jane daughter of John Ray, J.P. They had five sons and three daughters. Sieveking died at his house in Manchester Square on 24 February 1904, aged 87. He was buried in the family grave at Abney Park cemetery, Stoke Newington.

A Treatise on Ventilation (1846)
The Training Institutions for Nurses and the Workhouses (1849)
A Manual of Pathological Anatomy, Carl Rokitansky (vol. ii, London, 1849) translated by Sieveking
A Manual of the Nervous Diseases of Man, Moritz Heinrich Romberg (2 vols., London, 1853) translated by Sieveking
British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review (editor, from 1855)
On Epilepsy and Epileptiform Seizures, their Causes, Pathology, and Treatment (London, 1858; 2nd ed. 1861)
A Manual of Pathological Anatomy, with Charles Handfield Jones (London, 1854; 2nd ed. 1875)
The Medical Adviser in Life Assurance (London, 1874; 2nd ed. 1882)
The Harveian Oration (London, 1877)


Scope and content/abstract:

Sir Edward Henry Sieveking's papers, 1846-1960, include his medical notebooks, with case notes, 1846-1873; Notebooks recording visits to patients, 1854-1879; Author's copy of On Epilepsy and Epileptiform Seizures, interleaved with his annotations, 1858; Diaries detailing his attendance of the Prince and Princess of Wales, 1863-1873, with related correspondence, 1886 and 1935; Chapters on 'physical organisation of the human race' by Sieveking, printed, undated; Correspondence with colleagues and family, and correspondence relating to Sieveking, 1863-1904; Papers relating to his professional appointments, such as material relating to his honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh, 1884, copies of the laws of the British Balneological and Climatological Society, undated, and St Mary's Hospital annual report, 1902; Addresses and lectures given by Sieveking, 1876-1890; Obituaries and memorials to Sieveking, including an introduction by his son, Albert Forbes Sieveking, 1904; Correspondence relating to Sieveking's papers, 1959-1960; Summary of, and commentary on, his diaries by Neville M. Goodman, c.1960; List of Sieveking's papers donated to the College, 1960; There is also a medical notebook thought to be in the hand of Alfred Robert Sieveking, which was found amongst Sieveking's papers.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

All requests should be referred to the Archivist

Physical characteristics:

Finding aids:



Archival history:

Prior to its deposit at the College, the collection was in the custody of Miss Olga Sieveking.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Most of the collection was donated by Miss Louisa Sieveking, great niece of Sieveking, through Dr Neville M. Goodman, in 1959; The list of Sieveking's papers and commentary on the diaries probably arrived with this deposit from Goodman, in January 1960.


Related material:

There is material relating to Sieveking held elsewhere in the College archives, particularly relating to his roles within the College, including his signature to a petition for free use of the College library by licentiates, 1858 (MS2000/15); Correspondence relating to Sieveking's name being used in an advertisement, 1874 (MS2412/175); Letter from Sieveking about the Harveian dinners, 1884 (MS1024/135); Correspondence as vice-president of the College, about the College's armorial window, 1887-88 (MS1094), the Moxon Memorial Medal, 1888 (MS1022/18), and the Chelsea Physic Garden, 1890 (MS1048/5).

There is also material relating to Sieveking's professional role as a physician elsewhere in the College archives, including three addresses to various institutions and an article by Sieveking, 1876-[1891] (MS109/10-13); Letter from Sieveking to Charles Edouard Brown-Sequard, about the publication of an article of Brown-Sequard's, 1858, amongst the latter's papers (MSBROWC/980/11). There are a number of Sieveking's letters amongst the College's Autographed Letters Collection (ALS).

Sieveking's lecture notes on popular physiology, 1847-48, are held at Edinburgh University, Special Collections; Letters received by Sieveking, 1947-96, are held at the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine. See the National Register of Archives for details.

Publication note:

On Epilepsy and Epileptiform Seizures, their Causes, Pathology, and Treatment, Edward Sieveking (London, 1858; 2nd ed. 1861)
`Medical Attendance on Royalty: The Diaries of Dr Edward Sieveking', Neville M. Goodman, Medicine and Science in the 1860s, 1969, pp.127-36


Archivist's note: Sources: Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians of London, 1826-1925, compiled by G.H. Brown (London, 1955) [Munk's Roll, 1955, pp.69-70]; Dictionary of National Biography, Second Supplement Vol. III, Sir Sidney Lee (ed.) (London, 1912) [DNB, 1912, pp.312-13]; `Obituary - Sir Edward Sieveking', British Medical Journal, 1904, vol. I, pp.581-82 [BMJ, 1904, pp.581-82]; `Obituary - Sir Edward Henry Sieveking', The Lancet, 1904, vol. I, pp.681-83; `Medical Attendance on Royalty: The Diaries of Dr Edward Sieveking', Neville M. Goodman, Medicine and Science in the 1860s, 1969, pp.127-36; Historical Manuscripts Commission On-Line National Register of Archives.
Compiled by Katharine Martin

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: Compiled September 2003

Brain diseases | Diseases | Pathology
Diaries | Nonfiction | Prose | Literary forms and genres | Literature
Epilepsy | Diseases | Pathology
Lectures (teaching method) | Teaching methods
Letter writing | Writing | Communication skills | Communication process
Medical records | Documents | Information sources
Obituaries | Documents | Information sources
Royal physicians | Physicians | Medical personnel | Medical profession | Medical sciences
Surgery | Medical sciences
Primary documents

Personal names
Alexandra | 1844-1925 | Queen consort of Edward VII
Edward VII | 1841-1910 | King of Great Britain and Ireland
Sieveking | Sir | Edward Henry | 1816-1904 | Knight | physician

Corporate names
Royal College of Physicians of London
St Mary's Hospital | Paddington x Paddington General Hospital
University of Edinburgh x Edinburgh University