Richard Bright’s Cane

This cane, though not much to look at, has a long and well documented history.

The cane originally belonged to Dr. Richard Bright (1789-1858) who was an innovative and influential physician in the early part of the Nineteenth Century, and was made licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in 1816. Dr. Bright is considered the father of nephrology, the branch of medicine that investigates diseases of the kidney. The condition today known as acute or chronic nephritis was historically known as Bright’s Disease.

The cane was next passed to Dr. Charles Murchison (1830-1879), a brilliant and prolific physician who published over 300 papers on a range of botanical and medical topics, including the influential work Treatise on the Continued Fevers of Great Britain in 1862. Murchison travelled extensively around the British Empire and was interested in a wide range of scientific topics. He became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1859.

Dr. William Millington was the next man presented with the cane. Millington was an eye specialist in the Victorian era when air pollution was a serious problem and led to a number of eye and respiratory problems. Millington was a philanthropist who opened a clinic for the treatment of eye diseases that would treat anyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Eventually the clinic grew into the Wolverhampton and Midlands Eye Infirmary, which is still in operation today.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth Century history of the owners of the cane is less well known, but it passed from Millington to Dr. Moses Taylor of Cannock, Staffordshire. From Taylor it is unclear who received the cane, but it may have been a Dr. Mahmoud Said Toukhy of Edinburgh and later Staffordshire. Dr. Ronald Edgar Johnson of Lichfield received the cane in 1934, and in 1955 it was given to Dr. George James Greenshields Davidson of Edinburgh. It is not documented when The Royal College of Physicians acquired this cane.

This note, outlining the history of the cane, was found rolled up inside the cane.