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James Goodchild Wakley, 1830-1886

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1830.12.25
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1886.08.30
Place of Death:


James Goodchild Wakley, the editor of the Lancet, was the youngest son of the reformer Thomas Wakley (1795-1862) and of the youngest daughter of Joseph Goodchild, a merchant of Tooley Street and a governor at St. Thomas's Hospital, London. He had two brothers, the eldest being Thomas Henry Wakley (1821-1907). He married and had one son, also called Thomas.


The Lancet founded in 1823 by James Wakley's father, with the aim of disseminating medical information. It occasioned controversy for its publication of hospital lectures and reports, and from 1851 for its publication of the analyses of food stuffs in general consumption. It was at first published in Bolt Court by Gilbert Linney Hutchinson, and subsequently at Essex Street, Strand; Prince's Street, Leicester Square; and 423 Strand. Thomas Henry Wakley became the senior proprietor of the Lancet following his father's death and James succeeded his father as editor. On James' death in 1886 his brother Thomas Henry and his son Thomas became co-editors.

A letter, relating to the death of James Reeves Traer and Francis Seymour Haden's alleged treatment of him, was written by 'A. B.' on 5 June 1867, claiming that the circumstances of Traer's death should be more widely known in the Lancet: 'Mr. J. R. Traer, M. R. C. S., having received an appointment in connexion with the Universal Exhibition in Paris, went over there towards the end of April, & almost immediately afterwards died in a very sudden manner. [...] it is a strange & melancholy fact that the gentleman who undertook the arrangements left the corpse to be buried at Père Lachaise without any sort of religious rites whatever, alleging in reply to an enquiry that no protestant ceremony (Mr Traer having been a member of the English Church) is permitted at Père Lachaise' [#02473]. James Wakley wrote to JW in June 1867 saying that it would be better if Traer was left to 'rest in peace' (#02474).


Sprigge, S., Life and Times of Thomas Wakley, London, 1897; Dictionary of National Biography Online, Oxford, 1997 (accessed 2003).