Mr Weiss and his Instrument of Certain Death

John Weiss came to London from Rostock in 1780. His father had been a cutler and served as Master Cutler to the Rostock Guild of Smiths; Weiss  took to the manufacture of surgical instruments and in 1787 opened for business at 42 Strand London under the name of White, before moving to 33 The Strand in 1805 and trading as ‘John Weiss’.

His surgical instruments were well regarded and sold around the world, and the company which he founded still trades as ‘John Weiss and Son’

An aggressive businessman, Weiss engaged in protracted disputes with competitors  to promote and protect his products. One such – with manufacturer John Read who claimed to have invented the stomach pump – went on for many years. Read accused Weiss of waging a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign to benefit his rival device, which included bribing wholesalers to send out damaged ‘Read’ pumps. None of this was proven against Weiss, who regarded these accusations as jealousy for the superiority of his product. Writing in the Lancet that the Read pump would be best used for “watering cabbages and washing cherry trees” Weiss concluded by wishing Read “all manner of good and especially a little better temper.”

In 1826 Weiss was granted permanent resident status by King George IV, and under William IV he was appointed ‘Razor Maker to the King’

Mr Weiss had spent his life making surgical devices. For his death he made a special item.

Having a dread fear of being buried alive, Weiss fashioned an instrument designed to pierce his heart as his coffin was closed. Instruction and direction for its use were contained within his will.

John Weiss died on December 26th 1843. He was buried at St Nicholas Ground with his surgeon Mr Benjamin Vallance in attendance. Vallance carried out his wishes in full, to ensure his certain death.

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