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John Robinson Dickson, one of the leading surgeons in the Province of Ontario, and son of David and Isabella (Robinson)Dickson, was born in Dungannon, County of Tyrone, Ireland, November 15, 1819. David Dickson was a prominent merchant in Dungannon for many years. His oldest son, David Dickson, Jr., was Major of the 95th Regiment, and William Dickson, another son, was Surgeon in the British Navy for a long time.
Our subject was educated at a Belfast Institution; read medicine with Dr. McLean, of Dungannon; came to Canada in 1837; attended lectures at the University of New York, and there received the degree of M.D., in 1842. His diploma was the first ever granted by the Medical Faculty of that Institution he being the senior alumnus. Twenty-one years later he received the same degree from Queen’s College, Kingston. In 1854 he assisted in forming the Medical School in Kingston, which afterwards became the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, for which, in 1866 he obtained the Charter, and of which he was appointed President, a position he still holds. He has also held the position of Professor of Surgery since the formation of the Medical School in 1854. The most of his large collection of anatomical casts he presented to the Royal College.
Dr. Dickson became a member of the Royal College of Physicians of London, in 1863, a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, England, in 1863, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, in 1867. He was at one time Vice-President of the Canada Medical Association, and President of the General Council of Medical Education and Registration of Upper Canada; was a member of the Association of Hospitals for the Insane, of North America; was for sixteen years Surgeon to the Kingston General Hospital. In 1862 he was appointed Surgeon to the Provincial Penitentiary, located at Kingston, and was Medical Superintendent of Rockwood Lunatic Asylum, Kingston, from 1869 until 1878, when ill health compelled him to resign.
The entire professional life of Dr. Dickson has been devoted to solid work, and he has evidently had too few vacations. In 1861 he published three papers in the British American Medical Journal, on ” Removal of the Inferior Maxilla,” “Vaginal Hysterectomy,” and “Resection of the Elbow Joint;” and since that time has contributed various other articles to different medical periodicals, showing a mastery of the “King’s English,” and of his several subjects. His “Prison Reports” and “Asylum Reports” are marked with unusual ability. He has always been a strong advocate of temperance, and abolished alcohol and beer from Rockwood Asylum, This was thought by many, a bold reform, but he very ably sustained his views on this subject before the Parliamentary Committee in Toronto a few years ago, and since his report on that occasion, other Asylums have adopted the same principle.
The Doctor has been an Elder of the Presbyterian church for nearly thirty years, and has lived an eminently exemplary life.
In 1839 he married Ann Benson, of Kingston, and has three sons and three daughters living, and has lost two children. William K., the eldest son, is teller in the Toronto branch of the Bank of Montreal; Edwin Hamilton is a barrister, Kingston, and Charles Rea is a medical student in the Royal College, Kingston, the three daughters and youngest son being with their parents. The two older sons are married.