NOTTINGHAM’S EMINENT SURGEONS AND PHYSICIANS


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This is an online version of a book that was published in 2003 as part of the Centenary Celebrations of the Nottingham City Hospital. The book entitled Sawbones to Keyholes is a collection of obituaries from two of medicine’s premier medical journals, the Lancet and the British Medical Journal, which give full and frank details of the educational and working lives of many of the society’s individual Presidents.


As all obituaries talk of individuals in the past tense I adapted them so they appeared as biographies. However when a personal reminiscence is written by one of the president’s former colleagues I refer to the individual as “in an obituary.”  However not all Presidents had obituaries or notices of death published in the Lancet or the B.M.J., so it was necessary to research several other forms of written material. One source was death notices published in local papers such as the Nottingham Evening Post, and other local papers which have since gone out of circulation. In such cases, when deciding how I should approach the subject matter, I decided to transcribe the text in its originality at the time of their death.


Also included in this work are biographies of Presidents adapted from the “Contemporary Biographies” which are held at the Local History Library, Nottingham. If a President were a fellow of either the Royal College of Physicians, London or the Royal College of Surgeons of England they would have a biography published in either the “Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons” or “Munks Role - The Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians.”


I was fortunate enough to discover that one of the former Presidents was a playing member of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. This was interesting because not only was I able to write about that former President but also show his batting and bowling averages! In some cases it was not possible to find anything significant written; in such cases the only available evidence I could use was the entry from the “Medical Directory” which I used as primary source information in the early days of the project


My final sources of information were two books. The first, written by Frank Harwood Jacob (himself a President on two separate occasions) entitled “A History of the General Hospital, Nottingham.” The second was by another former President Robert George Hogarth, entitled “The Trent and I go wandering by.”  This last source of information was useful as apart from it being an autobiography it also contained the full text of his inaugural address when he was made President of the British Medical Association in 1926.


Sawbones to Keyholes was designed more as a reference book rather than something you would read from the beginning. As I have already said, it is about the people who were a figurehead in the development of medicine in Nottingham; not just a list of dates and accomplishments but also, where possible, showing a measure of the kind of person each  president was. For example, William Bramwell Ransom, President for the year 1896, when clinical trials were still being carried out on the tuberculin vaccine by the German Scientist Dr. Robert Koch he personally travelled to Berlin to obtain phials of this new vaccine to treat his patients back home in Nottingham.


When looking at new forms of treatment, William Bramwell Ransom was not the first President to introduce new methods. The first significant introduction of new methods was established by the society’s founder member Dr. John Attenburrow. It was he who, as a keen follower of Edward Jenner, the discoverer of the smallpox vaccine in 1798, established in 1805 a “Vaccine Institution” for the sole purpose of paying for a surgeon for inoculating the children of the poor.


Another example of medical development was the introduction of Radiotherapy in 1901 by Robert George Hogarth (President, 1913). As you will see Hogarth was a very forward-thinking man. In his inaugural address as President of the British Medical Association in 1926 he personally endorsed the idea of a National Health Service, an idea that was to see him for a time ostracised by his medical colleagues. However, as events turned out, on the 5th July 1948 his endorsement was to bear fruit with the formal establishment of the National Health Service. Finally in an obituary to Hogarth in 1953 a former colleague said, “R. G. Hogarth at the time of his death was considered to be the doyen of the medical profession in Nottingham.”


The book was not just about  an individuals’ efforts to establish medicine in Nottingham, but to also to overcome the forces of prejudice. An excellent example of this was none other than the first lady President Dr. Sarah Gray, President for 1921 to 1922. As an example, in 1899 she was elected to her first public appointment at the Nottingham Women’s’ Hospital, where she was given the post of assistant surgeon in charge of outpatients or, as it was then called, the chloroformist. The advent of her appointment was viewed by most of her colleagues with distrust. For a whole year one of them insisted on being present whenever she administered an anaesthetic, eager to discover and proclaim some negligence or inefficiency. In many ways it could be said that the appointment of Dr. Sarah Gray as the Society’s President in 1921 was living proof that women had become accepted in medicine. Indeed, it was only two years before her appointment that women were given the vote.


Hopefully this section will be revised to include the former Presidents of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society from 2003 onwards.


Paul R. Swift B.A.

Hon. Archivist,

Nottingham University Hospitals N.H.S. Trust.

November 2012


Click on the above front cover from the original book to read about the Presidents of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical from 1828 to 2002