When a patient is admitted to St George's Hospital for a daycase cardiac procedure the chances are they will spend part of the day on James Hope Ward. Situated on the first floor of Atkinson Morley Wing this busy ward sees a constant stream of patients admitted for coronary angiograms, angioplasty or cardioversion. Whilst recovering they might wonder who was James Hope, and what was his connection to cardiology and St George's Hospital?
James Hope was born near Manchester in 1801. His name was never associated with a disease or syndrome or the naming of a physical sign but his skill was to take a new invention, the stethoscope, and to demonstrate its value in the diagnosis of diseases of the heart. After studying for five years in Edinburgh he undertook further study in London, Paris and Milan beofre being appointed as assistant physician to St George's Hospital at Hyde Park Corner. Over the next 5 years he saw over 20,000 patients that we admitted and a further 15,000 outpatients. He was appointed to the staff of the hospital as physician in 1839 at the age of 38.
James Hope’s major contribution to cardiology was to understand the origin of the sounds heard when examining the heart. Laennec, the inventor of the stethoscope, thought that the first heart sound was due to the contraction of the ventricles and the second sound due to contraction of the atria. Hope conducted experiments on the exposed heart of a stunned donkey and correlated the sounds with the movement of the beating heart. He used a dissecting hook to block the aortic valve from closing and found that he was able to eradicate the second heart sound correctly concluding that the second heart sound was due to the closure of the aortic valve.
Like many new inventions many doctors were afraid of using the stethoscope. To aid this in July 1838 James Hope hosted a public demonstration on the use of the stethoscope. This was described in the London Medical Gazette: "The following experiment... affords demonstrative proof that the diagnosis in question, usually supposed to require years of experience, may be efficiently taught in the brief space of ten minutes; and I communicate it to you in the hope that, through the medium of your valuable journal, it may by encouraging the diffident proof subservient to the progress of medical science."
Sadly James Hope career was cut short by tuberculosis and he died in 1841. He was one of the first physicians interested in cardiology and is remembered for his important contributions to the science of cardiology. His memory lives on for all those staff and patients who come into contact with James Hope ward.
Hope J. (1833). A treatise on the diseases of the heart and great vessels: comprising a new view of the physiology of the heart's action according to which the physical signs are explained.
Dr Richard Bogle
The opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author and should not be construed as the opinion or policy of my employers nor recommendations for your care or anyone else's. Always seek professional guidance instead.