The brother of Dracula's 'father'


Sir, – As the celebrations to mark the centenary of Bram Stoker’s death continue, it seems a pity that there has been practically no mention whatsoever of his brother, Sir Thornley Stoker, who passed away six weeks after Bram.

Sir Thornley was a remarkable man by any standards who many would envy for his incredible achievements. A very gifted surgeon, he developed an expertise in abdominal and neurosurgery. Indeed in 1878 he pioneered the art of hysterectomy. He was also the first surgeon in Ireland to successfully perform brain surgery by a method known as trephining. Together with his brother-in-law, Sir William Thomson, he performed Ireland’s first prostatectomy.

Sir Thornley was professor of anatomy and more laterally president of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. He was visiting surgeon and governor to Swift’s Hospital (St Patrick’s Hospital). In the Richmond Hospital he drew up the plans for the new building previously known as the House of Industry. There he was responsible for setting up Ireland’s first school of nursing. He was awarded a knighthood in 1895 and baronetcy in 1911.

His interests outside medicine were wide. He had a keen interest in art and was a senior figure in the Royal Hibernian Academy. He was also governor of the National Gallery of Ireland. His magnificent house in Ely Place had wonderful works of art and many guests would marvel at his antiquities. In fact, Sir Thornley was ultimately responsible for introducing high-end furniture to doctors’ waiting rooms of the day.

In June 1912, Ireland lost one of its greatest surgeons, yet Sir Thornley seems to have been lost in the sands of time, overshadowed, even in death, by his brother Bram Stoker. Although their relationship soured in later life, there is mounting speculation, through rough sketch notes belonging to Bram, that Sir Thornley advised him on medical matters regarding venous and arterial pressure points. One wonders would the masterpiece Dracula have been conceived at all had it not been for his brother’s influence. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 9.