Quain, Richard (1800–87), surgeon, anatomical lecturer, and medical writer, was born in July 1800 at Fermoy, Co. Cork, third son of Richard Quain, gentleman, of Rathealy, Co. Cork, and his first wife (née Jones). His elder brother was Jones Quain (qv) and his cousin was Sir Richard Quain (qv) (1816–98). His early education was at Dr Adair's school in Fermoy and later at the school of a Mr Dowling; he entered TCD in December 1816 but never took his degree. After a period apprenticed to a Dublin surgeon, he travelled to London, where he studied under his brother at Mr Tyrrell's medical school at Aldersgate St. He then went to Paris where he studied under James Richard Bennett (d. 1830), the noted Irish anatomist. When Bennett was appointed demonstrator in anatomy at University College, London, in 1828, Quain accompanied him as his assistant and was elected a member of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) of England.
He succeeded to the post of senior demonstrator on Bennett's death in 1830 and was appointed (1832) professor of descriptive anatomy, an office he held until 1850. In 1834 he was appointed assistant surgeon of the University College Hospital, and in December 1843 he was elected as one of the first fellows of the RCS. He was elected FRS (February 1844), and was appointed (1848) full surgeon and special professor of clinical surgery at the University College Hospital. In 1854 he was elected to the council of the RCS, and in November 1862 he was appointed surgeon extraordinary to Queen Victoria, an office he held until his death. His cousin, Sir Richard Quain, later served as physician extraordinary to the queen. He served on the RCS board of examiners in 1865, resigning his chair at University College Hospital in 1866, and was appointed consulting surgeon and emeritus professor of clinical surgery at the hospital's medical school. In 1868 he was elected president of the RCS. He delivered the Hunterian oration in 1869, and represented the college (July 1870–June 1876) in the general council of education.
Like his brother, Jones Quain, he published many medical texts. His first was The anatomy of the arteries of the human body with its applications to pathology and operative surgery in lithographic drawings with practical commentaries (London, 1844). The plates for this work were executed by Joseph Maclise, FRCS, brother of Daniel Maclise (qv), RA. In 1848 he edited, with William Sharpey, a new edition of his brother's Elements of descriptive and practical anatomy, which ran to several editions. His later publications were The diseases of the rectum (London, 1854), Observations on medical education (London, 1865), Some defects in general education (London, 1870), and Clinical lectures (London, 1884). He also published articles in Transactions of the Medico-Chirurgical Society. He died 15 September 1887, at his London residence, 32 Cavendish Square, and was buried at Marylebone cemetery, Finchley.
He married (1859) Ellen, Viscountess Midleton, widow of the 5th viscount. They had no children. In his will he left the bulk of his estate (around £75,000) to University College, London, and as a result of this bequest the Quain prize scheme and the Quain professorship of English language and literature were founded. The Royal College of Surgeons in London has a portrait of Richard Quain, painted by George Richmond, RA, and also a bust by Thomas Woolner.