Indian Journal of Dermatology
  Publication of IADVL, WB
  Official organ of AADV
Indexed with Science Citation Index (E) , Web of Science and PubMed
Users online: 1664  
Home About  Editorial Board  Current Issue Archives Online Early Coming Soon Guidelines Subscriptions  e-Alerts    Login  
    Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size Print this page Email this page

Table of Contents 
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 65  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 225-228
Walter cooper dendy (1794-1871) and the first book on pediatric dermatology

Consultant Dermatologist; From “Pranab Skin Clinic”, Ismile(Near Dharmaraj Mandir), Asansol, West Bengal, India

Date of Web Publication14-Apr-2020

Correspondence Address:
Amiya K Mukhopadhyay
Consultant Dermatologist; From “Pranab Skin Clinic”, Ismile(Near Dharmaraj Mandir), Asansol, West Bengal
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijd.IJD_430_19

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Mukhopadhyay AK. Walter cooper dendy (1794-1871) and the first book on pediatric dermatology. Indian J Dermatol 2020;65:225-8

How to cite this URL:
Mukhopadhyay AK. Walter cooper dendy (1794-1871) and the first book on pediatric dermatology. Indian J Dermatol [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Jun 26];65:225-8. Available from:

'Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested'.

Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626).


A book is not always a mere storehouse of knowledge and information expressed in a meaningful arrangements of words forming sentences bearing sense and expressing the mind of the author and significance of the subject confined between two covers, but it may mark the beginning of an era or a subject or a specialty of knowledge. While commenting on the Willan's book On Cutaneous Diseases, the first text book of dermatology in a modern sense, Professors Karl Holubar and Daniel Wallach wrote:… medals, appointments, concepts of the organic nature of the skin are all a bit ephemeral. A book is tangible—something to get your hands on.[1] True it is! Willan's treatise (1797) marked the beginning of a new dermatology shedding its all old hues. A similar such epoch making phenomenon happened just after three decades when Walter Cooper Dendy published his A Treatise on the Cutaneous Diseases Incidental to Childhood in 1827 – the first book written exclusively on the skin diseases of children and is an incidence that marked the beginning of the journey of modern day Pediatric Dermatology. This present piece of article is a tribute to Walter Cooper Dendy and the first book on pediatric dermatology.

   Literature on Pediatrics and Pediatric Dermatology Before 1827 Top

From the early days of the medical history attention was drawn towards the skin diseases of children. This is evident in the mention of vernix caseosa and some congenital disorders in the clay tablets of the Mesopotamian civilization of fourth millennium B.C. In India, a subject entitled Kaumarabhritya was dedicated to children in health and diseases much before the Christian era. It also described about various skin diseases of the children.[2] Rhazes (865–925), a physician from the Arabian world, was first to write a book on pediatrics named “Risala fi amraz ai-atfal aw 'I-'ianaya bihim” or “The Diseases of Children.”[3] The first book on pediatrics in English was The Boke Of Chyldren written by Thomas Phaer and published in 1544. All these books contained skin diseases in children as a division/chapter of the tome but it was the Dendy's treatise that, for the first time, was solely dedicated to the subject of skin diseases related to children.[4]

   Walter Cooper Dendy: a Man of Versatility Top

It was the first day of October of 1794 when Walter Cooper Dendy was born to Stephen Cooper Dendy and Marianne Dubbins at Sussex, England. He moved to London and started his studentship at Guy's and St. Thomas Hospital during 1811. He became a member of the College of Surgeons in 1814 and started his medical practice at Stamford Street, Blackfriars. He was selected a fellow of the Medical Society of London and afterward became its president. Although he started his studies and career as a surgeon and worked as senior surgeon at the Royal Infirmary for Children in Waterloo Road for a long period of time, but as usual the creativity of a genius can never remain restricted to a specified boundary. His literary works like “Zone” — a poem and the book entitled the “Philosophy of Mystery” (1841) earned him fame in the field of literature as well as philosophy. He drew the illustrations for his own treatises. His various works like On the phenomena of dreams and other transient illusions (1832) and Psyche, a discourse on the birth and pilgrimage of thought (1853) are examples of his profound knowledge on psychology and parapsychology. He published a number of papers in psychology and anthropology journals. One of his famous article read before the members of the Anthropological Society on December 3, 1867 was the Anatomy of Intellect .[5] He was elected a fellow of the Anthropological Society of London in 1867 and read another famous paper Anthropogenesis in 1868 and criticized the Darwinian theory in sharp tongue whose abstract was published in the Journal of the Anthropological Society.[6] His studies on psyche, psychotherapy, and dream are one of the pioneering works on the subject. Dendy first coined the term “psychotherapeia” in his book Psyche: A discourse on the birth and pilgrimage of thought.[7] He had >15 works, mostly books apart from various lectures and papers in journals and topics ranged from pure literary work to medicine as well as psychology, parapsychology, and anthropology. He died due to cardiac problem at the age of 77 at Suffolk Street, London on December 10, 1871.[8],[9]

   Dendy and His Works on Diseases of Children and of Skin Top

It is a matter of fact that Walter C. Dendy started his journey as surgeon, but his inclination toward the child diseases and his long presence in the Royal Infirmary for Children in Waterloo Road enriched the medical world with his invaluable works on child diseases in the form of books like A Treatise on the Cutaneous Diseases incidental to Childhood (1827), The Book of the Nursery (1833), Monograph I. On the Cerebral Diseases of Children (1848), etc. Dendy was especially vigilant about the ailments of the skin and he maintained his own observations and he believed that most of the skin diseases are manifestations of the internal derangements especially that of the alimentary tract and digestive system. His works on the skin diseases were expressed in the form of books like A Treatise on the Cutaneous Diseases incidental to Childhood (1827), Practical Remarks on the Diseases of the Skin (1837), Hints on Health and Diseases of the Skin (1843), Portraits of the Diseases of the Scalp (1849), The varieties of Pock delineated and described (1853), etc.

   A Treatise on the Cutaneous Diseases Incidental to Childhood : The first Book of Pediatric Dermatology Top

As already mentioned, Dendy was the first to write a treatise on skin diseases incidental to the children. The book, A Treatise on the Cutaneous Diseases incidental to Childhood , was published by John Churchill of the Leicester Square of London in 1827 in octavo format and printed by the I. Botson and Palmer Printers of the Savoy Street of London [Figure 1]. It was dedicated to J. H. Green, Esq. F.R.S., Professor of Anatomy to the Royal Academy and Professor of Anatomy and Surgery to the Royal College of Surgeons from whom the author learnt the subject in his early days of studies. The book contained 289 pages on the subject matter and the content showed six broad chapters including the introduction. It contained 24 color plates arranged in two pages each containing 12 plates arranged in four columns [Figure 2] and [Figure 3]. Each column contained three rows. The book starts with definition of terms frequently used in describing skin lesions, such as papulae, squamae, exanthemata, bullae, pustulae, vesiculae, tuberculae, and maculae. These definitions do not match much with the present definitions of the terms. In the introduction chapter, Dendy presumed that many skin diseases are manifestation of the derangement of the internal milieu, particularly secondary to the derangement of the intestine and next he discussed about classification and nosology in cutaneous disorders proposed by various authors such as Lorry, Rayer, Sauvages, Plumbe, Cullen, Alibert, and Willan. He appreciated the work of Alibert but with reservations, and followed mainly the Willan way. Dendy assumed intestinal derangement as the important cause of cutaneous disorders and argued that prevention of skin diseases was possible if alimentary ailments be controlled. Dendy described in detail about bathing and fumigation of the newborn. As about anatomy of the skin, he said that skin was composed of three layers: corium internally, cuticle externally, and rete mucosum forming the bond between the two. Nails were considered as part of corium. Impetigo was considered as noncontagious. Psoriasis has been confused with leprosy and leprosy has been described with peculiar symptoms like itch. Though most of the diseases mentioned by Dendy are known to us even today almost in similar names but some are not in vogue. As about the management, bloodletting and use of leeches for that purpose along with various chemicals used to prepare paste, ablutions, and oral medication including frequent use of laxatives to cleanse the bowel were mentioned in the book. On the whole, Dendy's treatise covered most of the issues related to skin diseases in children prevalent during that period with prevailing management options.[10]
Figure 1: Cover page of the A Treatise on the Cutaneous Diseases Incidental to Childhood. London: John Chuchill (1827) by Walter Cooper Dendy. (Source: Welcome Library, London. Licensed under

Click here to view
Figure 2: Illustrations of various skin lesions in colour plates from Dendy's book. (Source: Welcome Library, London. Licensed under

Click here to view
Figure 3: Illustrations of various skin lesion in color plates from Dendy's book. (Source: Welcome Library, London. Licensed under

Click here to view

   Conclusion Top

The subject of skin diseases witnessed a period of renaissance from the middle of the eighteenth century and extended it pace for the next one hundred years. It was the period that viewed the activity of giants such as Charles Ann Lorry (1726–1783), Joseph Plenck (1735–1807), Robert Willan (1757–1812), Jean-Loius Alibert (1768–1837), and others. Willan was decorated with the John Fothergill Medal in 1790—an honor awarded for the first time in the history of dermatology. The first full chair of dermatology was established in 1790 at the University of Pisa, Italy.[11]

The concept of modern dermatology was, thus, in nascent stage and the subject of dermatology was just maturing from its infancy. In this situation, a book written exclusively on the pediatric dermatology is certainly unimaginable. It took about one and a half centuries to give birth to Pediatric dermatology “officially” (1972) after the publication of Dendy's book in 1827. Hence, A Treatise on the Cutaneous Diseases incidental to Childhood (1827) should be considered as the landmark of beginning of the journey of modern day pediatric dermatology and the dermatology world should bow down before Walter C. Dendy who could foresee the future such a long time back.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Holubar K, Wallach D. History of dermatology: A bicentennial perspective. In: Freedberg IM, Eisen AZ, Wolff K, Austen KF, Goldsmith LA, Katz SI, et al . editors. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 5th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1999. p. 5-7.  Back to cited text no. 1
Mukhopadhyay AK. Evolution of pediatric dermatology in India: A medico-historical overview. Indian J Paediatr Dermatol 2019;20:5-11.  Back to cited text no. 2
  [Full text]  
Radbill SX. The first treatise on paediatrics. Am J Dis Child 1971;122:369-76.  Back to cited text no. 3
Harper J. The History of Pediatric Dermatology. Available from: [Last accessed on 2019 May 29].  Back to cited text no. 4
Dendy WC. The anatomy of intellect. J Anthropol Soc London 1868;6:xxvii-xxxix.  Back to cited text no. 5
Dendy WC. On anthropogenesis. J Anthropol Soc London 1869;7:XXIX - XXXIII.  Back to cited text no. 6
Buchanan R D, Haslam N.”psychotherapy”. In :The Cambridge handbook of Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2019.p.468-494.  Back to cited text no. 7
Available from: Walter_Cooper_dendy&oldid=894851231. [Last accessed on 2019 Jun 13].  Back to cited text no. 8
Anonymous. Obituary notices. J Anthropol Soc Great Britain Ireland 1872;1:397-400.  Back to cited text no. 9
Dendy WC. A Treatise on the Cutaneous Diseases Incidental to Childhood. London: John Chuchill; 1827.  Back to cited text no. 10
Mukhopadhyay AK. Skin Diseases ('Dermatology') in India: History and Evolution. Kolkata: Allied Book Agency; 2011.  Back to cited text no. 11


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]

This article has been cited by
1 “Walter Cooper Dendy (1794-1871) and the first book on pediatric dermatology” - Reader's question
Sarvin Sanaie, JavadGhazi Sha'rbaf, Reza Mohammadinasab
Indian Journal of Dermatology. 2020; 65(6): 536
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Author's Reply
AmiyaK Mukhopadhyay
Indian Journal of Dermatology. 2020; 65(6): 537
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Print this article  Email this article
    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
    Article in PDF (1,323 KB)
    Citation Manager
    Access Statistics
    Reader Comments
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

    Literature on Pe...
    Walter Cooper De...
    Dendy and His Wo...
    A Treatise on...
    Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded37    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 2    

Recommend this journal