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SC Talk: Peter Alberti, Medicine, U of T – “Victorian Doctor, Sir William Wilde, Otologist, Archeologist, Antiquarian, Author, Traveler, Philanderer, Genius. March 1815 – May 1876, Famous Father of an (in)Famous Son” January 5

January 5 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

SC Talk: Peter Alberti, Medicine, U of T

Title: “Victorian Doctor, Sir William Wilde, Otologist, Archeologist, Antiquarian, Author, Traveler, Philanderer, Genius. March 1815 – May 1876, Famous Father of an (in)Famous Son”

Introducer and Host: Michael Hutcheon

Abstract: William Wilde was born at the end of the Napoleonic wars on the West Coast of Ireland, spoke Gaelic as a child before undertaking a surgical apprenticeship, in English speaking Dublin, at the age of 17. He was a highly talented but enigmatic person:
-On graduation, aged 22, his’ internship’ was a Mediterranean cruise as physician – this resulted in extremely successful travel book, the royalties from which paid his postgraduate training.
-His postgraduate training in London and Vienna resulted in another successful book – a statistical analysis of the secretive Austrian Empire.
-Starting his practice and eye and ear disease, aged 26, he was deputed to take a major role in the Irish census of 1841, which continued through the following decades and for which he was knighted.
-His illegitimate firstborn son joined him in practice; his younger son Oscar hated him.
-He edited a conservative journal supporting the Unionist’s cause and married a brilliant, militant nationalist.
-He wrote an influential textbook of otology but is better remembered for his guidebooks of the Irish countryside, where he made important archaeological discoveries.
-He was an extremely successful practitioner to rich and poor alike but became involved a slander case which nearly finished his career.
All of this before he was 50 years old. The list of presidents of the Irish Academy notes his occupation as polymath.

Bio: I was born in Germany, grew up and educated in the Northeast of England and graduated from the University of Durham medical school in 1957. I had research training in the US, graduating PhD from Washington University St. Louis, undertook my surgical training in Newcastle, England. I was recruited to the University of Toronto in 1967 to Sunnybrook hospital but my main attachments were to Mount Sinai, 1970 – 1992, and Toronto General Hospital, 1982 – 2000. I was chair of the Department of otolaryngology 1982 – 92. I was general secretary of the International Federation of ORL societies from 1992 until 2002, advisor to the world health organization on prevention of hearing loss 1993 until 2015. After age-related retirement from U of T, I spent 3 years at NUS in Singapore and sometime in Nanjing, PRC. My main professional interest was hearing loss and its prevention. In my retirement I have been an active member of the International Society of the history of otolaryngology.

My three main hobbies have been sailing, photography and collecting antiquarian medical books related to otolaryngology, an interest awakened while still in Newcastle. I have been fascinated by and written about 19th century otolaryngology (the time when the discipline developed). My interest in William Wilde was stimulated when I gave the annual William Wilde lecture to the Irish otolaryngological society in 1986, which required a short introduction about Wilde – this became a long preoccupation.

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January 5
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Event Category:


Michael Hutcheon