Object in Focus - Sir Astley Paston-Cooper

a black and white print of a drawing shows a men in a suit, white curled hair and leaning on a desk with one hand placed on it
© Dacorum Heritage Trust

This print from 1830 is of the distinguished surgeon Sir Astley Paston-Cooper. The engraver is Samuel Cousins, the artist is Thomas Lawrence. It has a dedication to the King, King George IV.

In 1793, the then Professor Cooper was appointed Lecturer in Anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons for three years. This involved the duty of public dissection of criminals executed at the Old Bailey. For these experiments, Professor Cooper was in contact with the Resurrectionists (body snatchers), who supplied the corpses. Professor Cooper’s private practice became the largest that any surgeon had ever held, and amongst his many rich and famous patients were George IV, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel.

He demonstrated what a great surgeon he was at a dinner party. When the guests had finished their meal, he brought out the lamb they had eaten, alive but now missing one leg.

In 1820, he was called upon to perform an operation on George IV, for which he was later awarded a baronetcy. Apart from a house in London, Sir Astley spent a great deal of time at his Gadebridge Estate and even managed to force a re-routing of the proposed railway to bypass his land. That is why Hemel Hempstead station is situated at Boxmoor and not in the town centre.

in curled handwriting you can see the dedication to the king
©Dacorum Heritage Trust

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