In the days when students were expected to have at least a smattering of medical history, they would have known that Corrigan’s sign and pulse were indicative of aortic regurgitation and would have guessed that Corrigan was Irish. Very few, if any, would have known about Corrigan’s cirrhosis, Corrigan’s button, or the maladie de Corrigan.1 But in an age where history is often deemed to be “not relevant,” it may be appropriate to point out that Sir Dominic John Corrigan was indeed born in Dublin, studied there before transferring to Edinburgh, and received his medical degree in 1825.
He then returned to Dublin, set up a private practice, had several public appointments, and worked with many of Dublin’s poorest inhabitants. Specializing in diseases of the heart and lungs, he gave lectures on that subject, and was a very hard-working physician, especially during the Irish Potato Famine. In 1847 he was appointed physician-in-ordinary to the Queen in Ireland; in 1859 became the first Catholic to hold the position of president of the Royal College of physicians of Ireland. President of several Dublin learned societies (the zoological, the pathological, and the pharmaceutical), he was knighted in 1866, and is remembered in Dublin by having a statue of himself in the College of Physicians and a ward named after him at the Beaumont hospital.2
He received many honors but was also involved in several political controversies. He wrote a series of papers in the Lancet and in 1832 he published in the Edinburgh Medical Surgical Journal a classical paper titled “On the permanent patency of the mouth of the aorta, or inadequacy of the aortic valves.” He had a passionate interest in education; was an excellent teacher and while a member of Parliament stood for Irish and Catholic rights, stating that “a lack of educational facilities was a source of deep sectarian discord.” He advised the government on fever, famine relief, and the planning of mental institutions, and is remembered for advancing clinical medicine as well as education and the provision of healthcare.
- O’Brien ET, New England Journal of Medicine, 1981,304:365, (Feb.5)
GEORGE DUNEA, Editor-in-Chief