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The making of a career: Joseph Toynbee's first steps in otology

  • A Mudry (a1)

Joseph Toynbee (1815–1866) is considered one of the fathers of modern otology. He spent his whole life in London, studying and describing the anatomy and pathology of the main diseases of the ear. This paper presents some of the motivations behind Toynbee's decision to specialise in otology, by examining several of his letters published under the signature ‘J. T.’ in The Lancet between 1838 and 1839. Frustrated by the weakened state of aural surgery in Britain, and by the popularity of several ‘quacks aurists’ (including John Harrison Curtis, William Wright and Alexander Turnbull), Toynbee insisted that the study of the ear needed to distance itself from quackery and rebuild itself upon a scientific foundation. This paper evaluates several exchanges between Toynbee and Curtis, Wright and Turnbull.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Dr Albert Mudry, Department of Otolaryngology, Stanford University, Avenue de la Gare 6, CH-1003 Lausanne, Switzerland Fax: +41 21 3238325 E-mail:
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The Journal of Laryngology & Otology
  • ISSN: 0022-2151
  • EISSN: 1748-5460
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