Churchill, Fleetwood (1808–78), obstetrician and medical writer, was born 21 February 1808 in Nottingham, England, third among four sons (the first two of whom died in infancy) and one daughter of Fleetwood Churchill (1772–1811), mercer, and Hannah Churchill (née Page). He was educated by his mother and apprenticed (1822) to a general practitioner in Nottingham and to surgeon William Forbes of Camberwell, London, before studying in Dublin and Paris and graduating MD (1831) from Edinburgh University.
He returned to Dublin to study midwifery, graduated licentiate (1832) of the (R)K&QCPI established himself in private practice and became Dublin's leading figure in obstetrical science. In 1836 he and Robert D. Speedy (1810–64) opened the Western Lying-in Hospital on Arran Quay, Dublin, which provided valuable service to the poor of that area and admitted 100 patients annually till it closed in 1853; he taught midwifery there and published medical reports in the Dublin Journal of Medical Science (1838–9, 1843).
A committed teacher throughout his life, he lectured in midwifery at the School of Medicine, Anatomy, Medicine, and Surgery, Digges St. (1833–4), at the Richmond Hospital School of Medicine (1834) (renamed the Carmichael School, 1849), and at Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital, Dublin. In 1856 he was appointed (king's) professor of midwifery in the School of Physic, TCD, resigning (1864) due to his extensive private practice.
He published several books on obstetrics, paediatrics, and gynaecology, many of which became standard works and were translated into many languages. His publications include the textbook Outlines of the principal diseases of females (1838), which was retitled On the diseases of women (rev. ed., assisted by Fleetwood Churchill, jun.; 6th ed. 1874); On the theory and practice of midwifery (1842; 6th ed. 1872), in which he gave a historical account of the subject and compiled and used statistics in an original way to elucidate practical problems; and A manual for midwives and monthly nurses (2nd ed. 1877, 4th ed. 1879). Diseases of children (1850; 3rd ed., with Fleetwood Churchill jun., 1870), possibly his best known work, was translated into many languages including Chinese. He edited Essays on the puerperal fever and other diseases peculiar to women (1849) for the Sydenham Society, and contributed numerous articles to professional periodicals, including ‘Report of private obstetrical practice for thirty-nine years’ (Dubl. Jn. Med. Sc., liii, no. 6 (Jan.–June 1872), 525–35), describing his own experience of attending 2,547 cases of labour.
A pioneer of sanitary reform, he was a founder of the first Dublin Sanitary Association (1850) and was subsequently a founder, vice-president, and chairman of the executive committee of the later association of the same name (established 1871/2). He received many professional honours including the biennial presidency (1867, 1868) of the K&QCPI (of which he had been elected hon. fellow (1848) and fellow (1851)), of the Obstetrical Society of Dublin (1856, 1864), of the Dublin Pathological Society, and of the obstetric section of the British Medical Association (1874), though illness prevented his taking up the last position. He was conferred with an hon. MD (1851) from TCD, and was elected MRIA (1842), council member of the Irish Medical Association, and honorary member of many foreign medical societies.
A bibliophile and widely read, he was a member of the library committee of the RDS. Modest, charitable, and deeply religious, he was free from sectarianism and supported foreign missions. In 1868 he presented a paper at the Dublin Church Congress on The American church: its organisation and practical working (1869) and brought this knowledge to bear during the reorganisation of the Church of Ireland after its disestablishment in 1869. He lived at 15 St Stephen's Green, Dublin. Suffering from chronic rheumatic arthritis of the hip joints and heart disease, he donated his rare collection of obstetrical books to the K&QCPI which commissioned Sir Thomas Jones (qv) to paint his portrait. He retired in 1875 and went to live with his daughter Mary and son-in law William Edward Meade (1832–1912), rector at Ardtrea, Co. Tyrone, and later bishop of Cork. He died 31 January 1878 at the rectory and was buried in the local churchyard.
He married (1832) Janet Rebecca Ferrier. Of their six sons and five daughters, Fleetwood (1832–84) became a practitioner in midwifery; Alexander (1839–1928), Charles (1841–1920), and George (1843–81) joined the Army Medical Service.