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Biographical entry Howse, Sir Henry Greenway (1841 - 1914)

Knight Bachelor, 1902; M.R.C.S., June 25th, 1865; F.R.C.S., June 11th, 1868; M.B. Lond. (Hons. and Medal), 1866; B.S. (with Medal), 1867; M.S., 1868; Hon. D.Sc. Victoria University.

21 December 1841
Bath, Somerset, UK
15 September 1914
General surgeon


Born at Lyncombe Hall, Lyncombe Vale, Bath, on Dec. 21st, 1841. His father was a landowner and an ardent Unitarian, acting sometimes as a lay preacher. His mother, Isabella Weald, daughter of a London merchant, was married at St. Saviour's, Southwark, now Southwark Cathedral, close to Guy's Hospital. His parents removed to Frenchay, near Bristol, and during boyhood Howse was educated irregularly at home until he entered University College School, London, in 1855. His father had meanwhile moved to Reading, and on leaving school at 16 Howse was apprenticed to J. W. Workman at Reading. In 1859 he passed the Matriculation examination with honours in chemistry, and entered Guy's Hospital in October, 1861.

In 1863 he passed the Preliminary Scientific Examination with the Exhibition in Biology. At the 1st M.B. Examination in 1864 he took the Exhibition and Gold Medal in Physiology, Histology, and Comparative Anatomy, and Honours in Anatomy. In 1866 Howse passed the final M.B. with Honours in Medicine and Forensic Medicine and the Gold Medal in Midwifery. In 1867 he passed the B.S. Examination with the Scholarship and Gold Medal, and the M.S. in 1868, qualifying for the Medal, but coming second to Marcus Beck (q.v.). He was dresser to John Hilton, House Surgeon in 1867, Demonstrator of Anatomy in 1868, to which he added for the first time a class in histology. He became Joint Lecturer on Anatomy in 1871 and Lecturer on Surgery in 1888. He was appointed Assistant Surgeon to Guy's Hospital in 1870, and acted as full Surgeon from 1875 until 1901, when he became Consulting Surgeon.

In addition to teaching histology Howse improved the methods of injecting cadavers for dissection, using glycerin preliminary to the injection with red wax. From 1874-1883 he was editor of the Guy's Hospital Reports, looking after the finance as well as the literary contributions. His full knowledge of anatomy and surgery made him a successful teacher, and he kept the attention of his class by constantly asking questions. He was naturally cautious and deliberate, constitutionally fitted to adopt the methods of Listerism which he had learnt directly by a visit to Lister in Edinburgh. So fortified, he practised freely the excision of tuberculous joints in children. It was common for him to have four to six cases of excision of the knee under him at one time; he superintended the dressing of each case himself. The Evelina Hospital for Sick children opened in 1869, and Howse was appointed Surgeon in 1871; thus he obtained more material of the same kind. From the point of view of mortality his results were splendid; as to the usefulness of the limbs there was more criticism. His results were not well known outside Guy's Hospital until his publication of "130 Cases of Excision of the Knee" in the Guy's Hospital Reports (1892, xlix) with an analysis by Newton Pitt occupying 106 pages.

He made a striking advance by raising gastrostomy to a relatively safe operation when carried out in two stages; for a time his method was universally adopted. The drawback that, on penetrating the gastric wall and inserting a tube, the stomach might become detached led to his procedure being modified. It had become practicable to operate on varicose veins under Listerian methods without danger from septic thrombosis and pyƦmia. Howse introduced the operation into regular practice. He also operated successfully for ovarian cysts and on a case of intussusception in an adult. At the Truss Society, where he was Surgeon, he was conservative as to the radical methods of treating hernia.

At the Royal College of Surgeons Howse was appointed on the Board of Examiners in Anatomy and Physiology in 1883, on the Court of Examiners he served from 1887-1897. He was elected to the Council in 1889, was re-elected in 1897 until 1905. He was Vice-President from 1897-1900, and President from 1901-1903, in succession to Sir William MacCormac, and was succeeded by Sir John Tweedy. It was during his Presidency that he was knighted in 1902, and the D.Sc. (Hon.) Victoria University was conferred on him. He was Bradshaw Lecturer in 1899, and Hunterian Orator in 1903. At the University of London he was Examiner in Surgery, and later the representative of the College of Surgeons on the Senate under the older conditions. He was also interested in the higher education of women and sat on the Council of Bedford College.

Living close to Guy's Hospital for twenty-five years, in St. Thomas's Street, he was in and out of the building most frequently; in the country he devoted himself to gardening; his holiday was occupied with Alpine climbing. In 1887, having married, he moved to 59 Brook Street until 1903, when he retired to Tower House, Cudham, Kent, situated on high ground over against Darwin's house at Downe. He married Alice, youngest daughter of the Rev. T. Lethbridge Marshall, and had three daughters and one son.

In retirement he suffered from osteo-arthritis and kept much at home, gardening and caring for his poultry. He shrank in stature, had intense pain, became exhausted, and died on Sept. 15th, 1914. He was buried at St. Luke's Cemetery, near Bromley. He had followed his father as a Unitarian and attended Stopford Brooke's Chapel. There is a portrait in oils by Lance Calkin in the Court Room of Guy's Hospital, painted in 1903 when he was aged 63.

Sources used to compile this entry: ["In Memoriam: Sir Henry Greenway Howse," by Sir Frederick Taylor, Bart., M.D., with portrait, Guy's Hosp. Rep., 1918, lxix, 1. Bibliographies of Guy's Men, No. 4; Bibliography of Sir Henry Greenway Howse, compiled by J.H. E. Winston Wills, Librarian, Guy's Hospital, 1915.].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England