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Views & Reviews Past Caring

Dark satanic mills

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 22 February 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1202
  1. Wendy Moore, freelance writer and author, London
  1. wendymoore{at}

Charles Turner Thackrah (1795-1833) enrolled as a pupil at Guy’s Hospital in London in 1815, two days after John Keats. Like the poet, Thackrah died young—at 38—from tuberculosis. Yet Thackrah’s brief life helped to save and improve the lives of millions through his crusading work on occupational disease.

Born in Leeds, Thackrah trained at Leeds Infirmary before “walking the wards” at Guy’s. He returned to his native city in 1817 to set up private practice as a surgeon-apothecary—effectively a general practitioner—and was also appointed as “town surgeon” to treat the city’s poor. The young Thackrah won acclaim and prizes, …

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