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Name: William Cornish

Burial Number: 0288

Gender: Male

Occupation: Surgeon General of the Indian Medical Service; Author

Distinction: Queen’s Physician

Born: 13/08/1828

Died: 19/10/1897

Buried: 23/10/1897


William Robert Cornish 1828 – 1897

Queen’s Honorary Physician

Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Surgeon-General, William Robert Cornish was awarded The Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (C.I.E.) and made the Queen’s Honorary Physician (Q.H.P.) for his pioneering medical and academic work in India. He was a keen musician with a beautiful bass voice and performed on the violoncello as a member of the Madras Philharmonic Society. He was also and excellent horticulturist with links to the Madras Botanical Gardens


William was born on 13 August 1828 in Butleigh, Somerset to Robert Cornish and Elizabeth Dauncey at a house named ‘Corvill’. He had a younger brother Henry. He was educated at Norton Hall Boarding School in Midsomer Norton.

After qualifying and working as a doctor, at St. George’s Hospital, he was recommended for the post of Assistant Surgeon with The East India Company. He successfully competed for this role and was employed by the Company. The UK, Roll of the Indian Medical Service lists William Cornish under a 1854 entry as:

1189, Cornish William Robert, b Sept 1828, St. George’s M.R.C.S. 1852, A.S. 1 Apr 1854. Gained commission as a prize at St. George’s nominated by W.H.C.  Plowden. Surg. 1 Apr 1866. F.R.C.S.  1868, S.M. 1 July 1873. B.S. 27 Nov. 1879. S.G. 5 Apr. 1880. R. 1 June 1885. d. at Worthing. 19 Oct, 1897. Never held rank of D.S.G., on appointment as S.G, went over all four D.S.G.s and seven Senior Brigade surgeons.

He married Louisa Sophia Hunter on 21 March 1854 in Margate. He met Louisa while working for her distinguished father, George Yeates Hunter in Margate. William and Louisa travelled to Madras immediately after their wedding, sailing on the East Indiaman, ‘The Roxburgh Castle’. Their son, William Hunter Cornish, was born in Chennai Tamil Nadu on 6th February 1855.

William was soon promoted to Surgeon General of the Madras Presidency and had an eminent career in health care and wrote several books and scientific papers. His brother, Henry, had also settled in Madras and became the editor of the ‘Madras Mail’. William was an excellent writer and regularly published work in the ‘Madras Mail’.

He retired to England about 1885, living for some time in Cresswell Gardens, Kensington and finally moving to Worthing in 1895. He joined the congregation at Heene Church and died at ‘Corvill’, Shelley Road, Worthing on 19 October 1897.

On October 23rd 1897 his funeral service was read at Heene Church and the internment service took place at the cemetery near to the church. Some members of the service (Indian Medical Service) to which he belonged, and others who had been associated with him in India, were present, besides members of his own family, to pay their late respects to his memory (from the British Medical Journal).




Researcher: Pat Brownbill

The Grave

No headstone image available

Location in Cemetery

Area: NWS Row: 1 Plot: 13

Exact Location (what3words): glare.shack.thing

Ashes or Urn: Unknown



No description of the headstone has been added.


In memory of Surgeon-General Wm. Robt. Cornish C.I.E.Q.H.P. Indian Medical Service born August 13th 1828 died October 19th 1897 "We go from strength to strength" also of his wife Louisa Sophia (Hunter) born April 14th 1835 died August 7th 1915.

Further Information


Name: William Robert Cornish

Gender: Male

Born: 13/08/1828

Town: Unknown

County: Somerset

Country: England


Maiden Name: Not applicable

Marriage Date: 25/03/1854

Spouse First Name: Louisa

Spouse Second Name: Sophia

Spouse Last Name: Hunter

Town of Marriage: Margate

County of Marriage: Kent

Country of Marriage: England

Information at Death

Date of Death: 19/10/1897

Cause of death: Unknown

Address line 1: Corvill

Address line 3: Shelley Road

Town: Worthing

County: Sussex

Country: England


Obituary from Plarr’s lives on line of the fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons

Cornish, William Robert (1828 – 1897)

by Royal College of Surgeons of England

Asset Name E001279 – Cornish, William Robert (1828 – 1897)
Title Cornish, William Robert (1828 – 1897)
Author Royal College of Surgeons of England
Identifier RCS: E001279
Publisher London : Royal College of Surgeons of England
Publication Date 2011-08-19
Subject Medical Obituaries
Description Obituary for Cornish, William Robert (1828 – 1897), Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
Language English
Source Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows
Full Name Cornish, William Robert
Date of Birth September 1828
Place of Birth Butleigh, Somerset, UK
Date of Death 19 October 1897
Place of Death Worthing, UK
Occupation General surgeon
Titles/Qualifications CIE 1880 MRCS December 17th 1852 FRCS June 11th 1868
Details Born at Corvill, Butleigh, Somersetshire, in September, 1828, son of William Cornish, and was educated at St George’s Hospital, where he obtained the William Brown Scholarship and the Benjamin Brodie Gold Medal for Clinical Surgery. After acting for some time as House Surgeon at the Royal Sea-Bathing Infirmary, Margate, he gained, on April 1st, 1854, after competition, an appointment in the medical service of the East India Company which that body had offered to St George’s Hospital.

He was posted to the Madras Presidency as Assistant Surgeon in 1854, and proceeded in charge of troops in the Roxburgh Castle. During the first four years of his service he held various civil and military charges, and in 1858 was selected to act as Secretary to the Inspector-General of Hospitals. In addition to his official duties he edited the *Madras Quarterly Journal of Medical Science*, and wrote papers on the treatment of dysentery by large doses of ipecacuanha, on enteric fever in India, on prison dietaries, and on cholera in Madras. He was a member of an important Commission for the reorganization of medical establishments in India in 1865-1866, was Secretary to the Medical Fund from 1864-1870, and in 1870 was appointed first Sanitary Commissioner for the Madras Presidency. In 1871 he drew up the Census Report of the Madras Presidency. In 1877 an immense amount of labour and responsibility devolved upon him in connection with the famine of that year. Sir Richard Temple was sent by the Government of India as Famine Delegate, and advocated a ration which Surgeon General Cornish, from his professional knowledge, considered inadequate for the starving natives. He contended that the Government ration doled out was insufficient properly to support life, and that thereby lives were unnecessarily sacrificed. A long discussion took place between Sir Richard Temple and Surgeon General Cornish, the latter being heartily supported by the Lancet and the press generally. Eventually the authorities had to give way, the diet recommended by Surgeon General Cornish was adopted, and the slow-starvation ration stopped. Further loss of life was thus checked. During this trying period Cornish was strongly supported by the Duke of Buckingham at the head of the Government of Madras. After saving countless lives he received the modest reward of the CIE.

In 1880 he was appointed Surgeon General over the heads of many seniors, and retired in April, 1885. He served as member of the Madras Legislative Council from 1888-1885, and in this capacity materially assisted in the framing of the Local Government Bill for the Presidency and in compiling the Famine Code, which has since proved of such service to India.

Returning to England, Cornish lived a quietly active life almost to the last. He was appointed Hon Physician to the Queen, and busied himself as a Governor of St George’s Hospital. He was a member of the Council of the British Medical Association, of the British Institute of Preventive Medicine, the Sanitary Assurance Association, and attended councils regularly, his advice in matters of tropical hygiene being much sought after. The British Institute of Preventive Medicine had been amalgamated with the College of State Medicine, of which body he was originally Hon Secretary and Treasurer, and he passed from the Council of the College to that of the Institute. He died at his residence – Corvill, Shelley Road, Worthing – on October 19th, 1897, and was buried in Heene Cemetery, Worthing, Sussex. He married the youngest daughter of Dr George Yeates Hunter, of Margate. His only son, Captain William Hunter Cornish, Assistant Secretary to the Government of India, died at Simla.

Lieut-Colonel Crawford gives his promotions as follows: – Assistant Surgeon, Madras (April 1st, 1856), nominated by W H C Plowden, gained Commission as a prize at St George’s Hospital; Surgeon (April 1st, 1866); Surgeon Major (July 1st, 1873); Brig-Surgeon (November 1st, 1879); Surgeon General (April 5th, 1880); retired on June 1st, 1885. Never held rank of Deputy Inspector-General, being promoted direct to Surgeon General at the reorganization of 1880. Good Service Pension, Nov 18th, 1885.

Publications: *Reports on the Nature of the Food of the Inhabitants of the Madras Presidency, and on the Dietaries of Prisoners in Lillah Jails. Compiled and arranged under the Orders of Government*, 8vo, Madras, 1863. *Report on Cholera in Southern India for the year* 1869, fol, with map, Madras, 1870. Madras Medical and Surgical Regulations, 1870. *Cholera in Southern India*. A record of the progress of cholera in 1870, and résumé of the records of former epidemic invasions of the Madras Presidency, 4 maps, Madras, 1871. *An Inquiry into the Circumstances attending the Outbreak of Cholera in H.M. 18th Hussars at Secunderabad in the month of May*, 1871, map, Madras, 1871. *Memorandum on the Movement of Cholera in Southern India*, 1869-72 : Appendix I, Observations on Professor Pettenkofer’s theory of cholera; Appendix II. Observations on the level of subsoil water in selected stations in reference to cholera prevalence, fol, Madras, 1872, bound with Madras Rep San Com, 1871. *Report on the Census of the Madras Presidency*, 1871, with Appendix containing the results of the census arranged in standard forms prescribed by the Government of India: and Supplementary Tables by W R Cornish, 2 vols, fol, Madras, 1874. *A Reply to Sir Richard Temple’s Minutes of the 7th and 14th March as to the Sufficiency of a Pound of Grain as the Basis of Famine Wages*, fol, Lawrence Asylum Press, 1877. *The Origin and Diffusion of Cholera*, 8vo, London, 1892.

Sources Crawford’s *History of the Indian Medical Service*, 1914, ii, 42, 455, 457
Rights Copyright (c) The Royal College of Surgeons of England
Collection Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows
Format Obituary
Format Asset
Asset Path Root/Lives of the Fellows/E001000-E001999/E001200-E001299
URL for File 373462
Media Type Unknown

Personal Effects

Money left to others: £7638 19 s 9 d

Current value of effects: Not calculated

Census Information


Living at Norton Hall Boarding School, Midsomer Norton, Somerset: William Cornish aged 13, pupil alongside William Hawkins aged 31, schoolmaster and several other pupils.


Living at 8 Cresswell Gardens, Kensington, London: William R Cornish, Retired Surgeon General aged62, Louisa Sophia, wife aged 55, Phillip Victor Cornish aged 1, grandson and 3 servants

Miscellaneous Information

Publications of William Robert Cornish

[BOOK] Report on the Census of the Madras Presidency, 1871: With Appendix Containing the Results of the Census Arranged in Standard Forms Prescribed by the …

WR Cornish – 1874 –
The general Census of 1871 was the first attempt at a systematic enumer-ation of the population
of the Indian Empire. But, although the taking of a census was a novel thing in Bengal …

[BOOK] A Code of Medical and Sanitary Regulations for the Guidance of Medical Officers Serving in the Madras Presidency

WR Cornish – 1870 –
… William Robert Cornish … WILLIAM ROBERT CORNISH, FRCS, …

[BOOK] Census of the town of Madras 1871

WR Cornish – 1873 –
… WR CORNISH, ESQ., FRCS, … WR CORNISH, FRCS, Sanitary Commissioner in charge
of the Census Office. … WR CORNISH, FRCS, Sanitary Commissioner for Madras, in …

Notes on Some Points Affecting the Diminution in the Rates of Mortality among Europeans in India

WR Cornish – The Indian Medical Gazette, 1867 –
In the following communication I intend to notice tlie present mortality rate for certain
diseases, as compared with the ratios existing in former years. Those to which I intend to draw …

Historical Evidence Regarding the Practice of Using Large Doses of Opium and Ipecacuanha in the Treatment of Acute Tropical Dysentry

WR Cornish – The Indian Medical Gazette, 1869 –
In a search amongst old records of the Madras Medical Board, I, not very long ago, came
across some papers connected? with the early nse of ipecacuanha and opium in the treatment …

[CITATION] Reports on the Nature of the Food of the Inhabitants of the Madras Presidency

WR Cornish – Madras: Graves, Cookson, 1863

[CITATION] Report on Cholera in Southern India for the Year 1869: With Map Illustrative of the Disease. By WR Cornish

…, WR Cornish – 1870 – Morgan