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Biographical entry Morris, Sir Henry (1844 - 1926)

Baronet, 1909; M.R.C.S., April 25th, 1866; F.R.C.S., June 19th, 1873; L.R.C.P. Lond., 1867; B.A. Lond., 1863; M.B., 1867; M.A., 1870; Hon. F.R.C.S.I.

  • Image of Morris, Sir Henry
7 January 1844
Petworth, UK
14 June 1926
Urological surgeon


Born at Petworth on Jan. 7th, 1844, the son of William Morris, surgeon of that place, and grandson of a Morris practising in North Wales. The surname Morris has been traced in particular to families of mixed Welsh and Jewish descent who settled on the Welsh border after the explusion of the Jews from England by Richard I. Morris in his prime, black-haired, fresh-complexioned, dignified, and a fluent speaker, seemed to point to a mixed Welsh and Jewish descent.

He was educated at Epsom College, being one of the first hundred boys admitted to that Institution under the Rev. Dr. Thornton. He then went to University College, London, where he graduated B.A. in 1863 with philosophy (i.e., the philosophy dominant in the early part of the eighteenth century) as his special subject. He proceeded M.A. in 1870, and was throughout life ruled by opinions acquired during this philosophic studies. He studied at Guy's Hospital, where he was House Surgeon after graduating M.B. Lond. For a short time he was Resident Medical Officer of the Dispensary, Stanhope Street. In January, 1870, he was appointed Surgical Registrar at Middlesex Hospital; in August, 1871, was elected Assistant Surgeon, and Surgeon in the Out-patient Cancer Department; from 1879 until 1889 he was Surgeon to the Hospital and was in charge of the Cancer Department. He retired at the age limit in 1905.

He was appointed Lecturer in Practical Surgery in 1871, but it was as Lecturer in Anatomy from 1872-1881 that he distinguished himself the most. It gave origin to his most original and permanent publication, The Anatomy of the Joints of Man (8vo, 43 plates, 1879; 8th American edition, Philadelphia, 1925). He followed this up later by acting as the editor of A Treatise on Human Anatomy, by various authors, 1893. Morris wrote on "The Articulations", other contemporaries contributing. The work ran through a number of editions. In 1881 he became Lecturer on Surgery.

In 1880 a domestic servant, aged 19, was diagnosed by the physician, Sydney Coupland, to have a calculus in an undilated kidney, the diagnosis being made from the signs of pain and hæmaturia only. Morris removed the stone on Oct. 22nd, 1880, and the case was reported, as the first designed operation of its kind in this country, in the Clinical Society's Transactions (1881, xiv, 30), the stone being preserved in the Hospital Museum. The patient made a complete recovery. This brought him an extended practice and gave him the opportunity of publishing a number of books on genito-urinary surgery; he was for a time the leading authority, until examination by X-rays and the cystoscope expanded the methods of diagnosis.

In the latter part of his life he was known outside Middlesex Hospital as a medical educationalist and politician. He became dogmatic and dictatorial in manner, long-winded in speech, influenced by rather an antiquated philosophy, and unsympathetic with novelties which could not be squared with his ingrained views. He believed that the Middlesex Medical School should continue to teach all the subjects of the curriculum, and he opposed with a donation of £1000 the Medical Schools Amalgamation University of London scheme in 1906. Great efforts were made to endow the Medical School and the fund amounted in 1927 to £130,000. He took a lifelong interest in his old school, Epsom College, was for many years Treasurer, and by visiting constantly was practically Manager.

As the Surgeon-in-charge of the cancer wards at Middlesex Hospital, he wrote much on the subject, including the Bradshaw Lecture, 1903, before the experimental and radiological developments of the subject. The Imperial Cancer Research Fund was originated in his house, No. 8, at the north-east corner of Cavendish Square, and he acted as Treasurer and Vice-President.

In connection with the British Medical Association he was Secretary of the Section of Surgery at Manchester in 1877, and in 1889 Vice-President at Leeds. In 1895 he was President of the Section of Anatomy and Histology in London. In 1893 he delivered the Cavendish Lecture, and in 1908 the Sir William Mitchell Banks Memorial Lecture.

At the College Morris held the following posts: 1884-1889, Examiner in Anatomy for the Fellowship; 1893-1914, Member of Council; 1894-1904, Member of the Court of Examiners; 1898, Hunterian Professor (three lectures on Renal Surgery); 1899, Examiner in Dental Surgery; 1903, Bradshaw Lecturer; 1904-1917, Representative on the General Medical Council, and was for ten years (1907-1917) Treasurer; 1906, Member of the Committee of Management of the Conjoint Board; 1906, 1907, President; 1909, Hunterian Orator. He took for the subject of his oration John Hunter in his relation to eighteenth-century philosophic literature, and delivered it in the presence of T.R.H. the Prince and Princess of Wales, shortly after King George V and Queen Mary; in 1918 he was elected a Trustee of the Hunterian Collection. He also examined in Anatomy at the University of Durham and in Surgery at the University of London.

During his last years he led a lonely life; his wife, a Russian dancer, predeceased him and bore him no children. After leaving his house in Cavendish Square he lived at 42 Connaught Square, ailing and afflicted by a slight facial tic. He was definitely ill for some three weeks, and died on June 14th, 1926. He left estate to the value of £44,000.

A fine portrait of him in his prime and in the full-dress President's gown by W. W. Ouless, R.A., hangs on the College staircase. There are others at different ages in the College Collection.

In addition to those already noted Morris wrote: -
Surgical Diseases of the Kidney, 12mo, 6 plates, 1885.
Injuries and Diseases of the Genital and Urinary Organs, 8vo, London, 1895.
Hunterian Lectures on Renal Surgery, 8vo, London, 1898.
Surgical Diseases of the Kidney and Ureter, 2 vols., 1901.
The Profession of Medicine: Introductory Address at the Middlesex Hospital Medical College, 1st October, 1873, 8vo, London.
"Clinical Lecture on Rupture of the Bladder and its Treatment." - Med. Times and Gaz., 1879, ii, 603.
"Remarks on Epithelioma and Ichthyosis of the Tongue." - Med. Soc. Proc., 1881-3, vi, 194.
On the Treatment of Inoperable Cancer, 8vo, London, 1902.
Essentials of Materia Medica, 7th ed., Philadelphia, 1905.
The Etiology, Symptoms and Treatment of Gallstones, 1896.
"Statement of Further Evidence proposed to be given before the Committee on the London Ambulance Service by the President R.C.S.," fol., London, 1908.
"Statement prepared for the Royal Commission on Vivisection by the President R.C.S.," fol., London, 1908.
"The Darwin Centenary - an Address from the Royal College of Surgeons to the University of Cambridge, 1909," 8vo, 1909.
"On the Need of the Medical Representation in Parliament." - Outlook, 1918, Oct.5.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1926, i, 1227, with portrait, a good likeness. Brit. Med. Jour., 1926, i, 1066, with portrait. Middlesex Hosp. Jour., 1926, xxvi, 114. An interesting note on Sir Henry Morris as an operator appeared in Brit. Med. Jour., 1926, ii, 44.].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England