Thomas Wharton Jones

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Thomas W. Jones
Thomas Wharton Jones2.jpg
Born(1808-01-09)9 January 1808
St Andrews, Scotland
Died 7 November 1891(1891-11-07) (aged 83)
Ventnor, England
Residence England
Nationality English
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
Scientific career
Fields Ophthalmologist and physiologist
Institutions University College, London
Royal Institution
Charing Cross Hospital
Academic advisors William Mackenzie [1]
Notable students Thomas Henry Huxley

Thomas Wharton Jones (9 January 1808 – 7 November 1891) [2] was an eminent ophthalmologist and physiologist of the 19th century.



Jones's father was Richard Jones, a native of London. Richard Jones had moved north to St. Andrews and was working with Her Majesty's Customs for Scotland when Thomas Wharton Jones was born in January 1808. Jones grew up in Scotland and studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. From 1827 to 1829, he was an assistant to Robert Knox, a lecturer on anatomy at Edinburgh. Around Christmas of 1827, while working for Knox, he purchased a body from William Hare on Knox's behalf, paying £7 10s to Hare. Jones thus became caught up in the scandal surrounding the notorious body-snatchers Burke and Hare, but was cleared by the investigating committee. [3] , [4] After this, he went to Glasgow, where he worked with William Mackenzie. Jones contributed the anatomical drawings of sections of the eye that appeared in Mackenzie's classic treatise. [5]

Scotland country in Northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Sharing a border with England to the southeast, Scotland is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, by the North Sea to the northeast and by the Irish Sea to the south. In addition to the mainland, situated on the northern third of the island of Great Britain, Scotland has over 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

University of Edinburgh public research university in Edinburgh, Scotland

The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1582, is the sixth oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's ancient universities. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city of Edinburgh, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university. The university played an important role in leading Edinburgh to its reputation as a chief intellectual centre during the Age of Enlightenment, and helped give the city the nickname of the Athens of the North.

Robert Knox Scottish physician, anatomist, zoologist and ethnologist (1791-1862)

Robert Knox,, was a Scottish anatomist, zoologist, ethologist and physician. He was a lecturer on anatomy in Edinburgh, where he introduced the theory of transcendental anatomy. However, he is now mainly remembered for his involvement in the Burke and Hare murders. An incautious approach to obtaining cadavers for dissection after the passage of the Anatomy Act and disagreements with professional colleagues ruined his career. A move to London did not improve matters. His later pessimistic view of humanity contrasted sharply with his youthful attachment to the ideas of Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire.

Jones travelled to Cork in 1835, and for a time he engaged in medical practice there, devoting himself chiefly to diseases of the eye and ear. In 1835, he made the discovery of the germinal vesicle in the mammalian ovum, and in 1837, described the origin of the chorion. [6] In 1837 he visited the principal universities of the Continent, and settled in London in the following year, where he set up practice as an oculist. In 1847, Jones examined a primitive ophthalmoscope devised by Charles Babbage, but found it of little value. [5] In 1851, Jones was appointed Professor of Ophthalmic Medicine and Surgery at University College, London. He occupied this post for 30 years until the beginning of 1881, when medical problems forced him to retire to Ventnor. He stayed in Ventnor until his death in 1891. [4]


The chorion is the outermost fetal membrane around the embryo in mammals, birds and reptiles. It develops from an outer fold on the surface of the yolk sac, which lies outside the zona pellucida, known as the vitelline membrane in other animals. In insects it is developed by the follicle cells while the egg is in the ovary.

Charles Babbage English mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer who originated the concept of a programmable computer

Charles Babbage was an English polymath. A mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, Babbage originated the concept of a digital programmable computer.

Ventnor town and parish on the Isle of Wright

Ventnor is a seaside resort and civil parish established in the Victorian era on the south-east coast of the Isle of Wight, England, eleven miles (18 km) from Newport. It is situated south of St Boniface Down, and built on steep slopes leading down to the sea. The higher part is referred to as Upper Ventnor ; the lower part, where most amenities are located, is known as Ventnor. Ventnor is sometimes taken to include the nearby and older settlements of St Lawrence and Bonchurch, which are covered by its town council. The population of the parish in 2016 was about 5,800.

Jones was a Lecturer on Physiology at Charing Cross Hospital, Fullerian Professor of Physiology in the Royal Institution (185155), and Ophthalmic Surgeon to the Hospital.

Charing Cross Hospital Hospital in London

Charing Cross Hospital is an acute general teaching hospital located in Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom. The present hospital was opened in 1973, although it was originally established in 1818, approximately five miles east, in central London.

Royal Institution scientific education and research organisation based in London

The Royal Institution of Great Britain is an organisation devoted to scientific education and research, based in London. It was founded in 1799 by the leading British scientists of the age, including Henry Cavendish and its first president, George Finch, the 9th Earl of Winchilsea. Its foundational principles were diffusing the knowledge of, and facilitating the general introduction of, useful mechanical inventions and improvements, as well as enhancing the application of science to the common purposes of life.

In 1872, on behalf of the Camden Society, Jones edited an account of the life and death of Bishop Bedell of Kilmore, who was an ancestral kinsman who died in the Irish Rebellion of 1641.

The Camden Society was a text publication society founded in London in 1838 to publish early historical and literary materials, both unpublished manuscripts and new editions of rare printed books. It was named after the 16th-century antiquary and historian William Camden. In 1897 it merged with the Royal Historical Society, which continues to publish texts in what are now known as the Camden Series.

The Irish Rebellion of 1641 began as an attempted coup d'état by Irish Catholic gentry, who tried to seize control of the English administration in Ireland to force concessions for Catholics. The coup failed and the rebellion developed into an ethnic conflict between the Gaelic Irish and old English Catholics on one side, and both ethnically English Protestants and Scottish/Presbyterian planters on the other. This began a conflict known as the Irish Confederate Wars.

Jones disagreed with the Darwinian theory of evolution, regarding it as a "mere conceit unsanctioned by science," and published a book in 1876 propounding this view.

Charles Darwin British naturalist, author of "On the origin of species, by means of natural selection"

Charles Robert Darwin, was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science. In a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, he introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding.

Evolution Change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations

Evolution is change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. These characteristics are the expressions of genes that are passed on from parent to offspring during reproduction. Different characteristics tend to exist within any given population as a result of mutation, genetic recombination and other sources of genetic variation. Evolution occurs when evolutionary processes such as natural selection and genetic drift act on this variation, resulting in certain characteristics becoming more common or rare within a population. It is this process of evolution that has given rise to biodiversity at every level of biological organisation, including the levels of species, individual organisms and molecules.


Selected publications

Jones also wrote various papers on physiology, published in the Philosophical Transactions and elsewhere.

Society Affiliations

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This article uses text from the Lancet of 28 November 1891. This publication is now in the public domain.
  1. Neurotree profile: Thomas Wharton Jones
  2. Patron of the Royal Institution: Fullerian Professorships. Retrieved on 29 May 2014.
  3. Men of the Time: a Dictionary of Contemporaries, rev. and ed. by Thompson Cooper, 9th ed., London: George Routledge and Sons, 1875, entry for Thomas Wharton Jones, pp. 594595.
  4. 1 2 Obituary, Thomas Wharton Jones, F.R.S., The Lancet138 (#3561), 28 November 1891, pp. 12561258.
  5. 1 2 Babbage the unfortunate, C. R. Keeler, British Journal of Ophthalmology88 (2004), pp. 730732, at p. 731.
  6. "Sir William Turner: a chapter in medical history" . Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  1. Men of the Time: a Dictionary of Contemporaries, Thompson Cooper, 10th ed., George Routledge and Sons, 1879, entry for Thomas Wharton Jones, p. 576.
Academic offices
Preceded by
William Withey Gull
Fullerian Professor of Physiology
Succeeded by
Thomas Henry Huxley