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Biographical entry Makins, Sir George Henry (1853 - 1933)

G.C.M.G. 1918; K.C.M.G. 1915; C.B. 1900; M.R.C.S. 22 July 1875; F.R.C.S. 12 December 1878; L.R.C.P. 1876; L.S.A. 1875; Hon. LL.D. Aberdeen 1923; Hon. LL.D. Cambridge 1929.

  • Image of Makins, Sir George Henry
3 November 1853
St Albans, Hertfordshire, UK
2 November 1933
London, UK
Military surgeon and Trauma surgeon


Born at St Albans, Herts, 3 November 1853, the only son of George Hogarth Makins, M.R.C.S., and his wife Sarah Ellis. His father practised medicine at Walton-on-Thames and was Master of the Society of Apothecaries in 1889, but his chief interests lay in chemistry and metallurgy. He was at one time professor of chemistry at the Middlesex Hospital, and was advisor to H.M. Mint in matters concerning the coinage. He also played the organ at Hook Church, Surrey, having previously made a pitch-pipe for the vicar, which is preserved in the church.

George Henry Makins was educated at the King's Collegiate School, Gloucester, and entered St. Thomas's Hospital, London in 1871, when George Rainey lectured and William Anderson was demonstrator of anatomy. He was house physician to J. Syer Bristowe in 1876, and at the end of his term of office went to Bethlehem Hospital, where he made a life-long friendship with Sir George Savage, who was afterwards superintendent of the hospital. From Bethlehem he went as house surgeon to the Seamen's Hospital at Greenwich, and then returned to St Thomas's, where he was house surgeon during the year 1878 to Francis Mason and William MacCormac. He spent some months at Halle and Vienna in 1879, and on his return to London in 1880 he was appointed resident assistant surgeon at St Thomas's Hospital, a post he held for five years. During this period he worked with Charles Smart Roy, who was then superintendent of the Brown Institute in the Wandsworth Road. He was elected surgical registrar to St Thomas's Hospital in 1885, and became assistant surgeon at the Evelina Hospital for Children. In 1887 he was elected assistant surgeon to St Thomas's Hospital in place of Francis Mason, becoming surgeon in 1898, and resigning under an age limit in 1913. His services at this time were so well recognized that he was given the title of emeritus surgeon with the care of patients for an additional term of two years. During 1887-99 he was demonstrator of anatomy in the Medical School, and in 1890 he succeeded Edward Nettleship as dean of the School. In this position he did much to complete the school buildings by the addition of two wings. In 1900 he was appointed lecturer on anatomy conjointly with William Anderson.

His war service began in November 1899, when he accompanied Sir William MacCormac to South Africa as a civilian consulting surgeon, at the beginning of the Boer War. He first treated the wounded at the base, but was at the front during the fighting about the Modder River and with Sir Frederick Roberts' advance to Bloemfontein and Pretoria. For his services he was decorated C.B. He returned to England in 1900 and in 1901 published Surgical experiences in South Africa, which became a textbook at the Staff College and was used both in France and Germany. In 1908 he joined the Territorial Force, received a commission as major R.A.M.C., à la suite, and busied himself with work for the British Red Cross at Devonshire House. In September 1914 he left for France as consulting surgeon, having Sir A. A. Bowlby as his colleague. He landed at St Nazaire and gradually made his way to Paris, where he worked for a short time in the British hospitals. From Paris he moved with G.H.Q. to St Omer, and spent a short time at Boulogne with F. F. Burghard and Percy Sargent as his colleagues. He finally took over the supervision of the newly established hospital centres at Camiers and Étaples, and made frequent trips up the line to the front. At Étaples he established a research centre, where new methods of wound treatment were put on trial. He left France in July 1917 and was appointed by the Government of India chairman of a commission to report on the British station hospitals. The Commission occupied seven months, which were spent in travelling over 11,000 miles in a special train, reporting and inspecting on hospitals all over India. Whilst in India he heard that H. M. King George V had conferred upon him the unusual honour of Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George. He returned home in March 1918 and retired from military service with the rank of major-general. He then gave up private practice, left 49 Upper Brook Street, and moved to 33 Wilton Place.

He was for some years a member of the executive committee and later chairman of the Athenaeum Club. It was during his chairmanship that an additional storey was added to the Club buildings. At the Royal College of Surgeons Makins was a member of the board of examiners in anatomy for the Fellowship, 1884-94; and a member of the Conjoint examining board, 1894-99. He served on the Court of Examiners 1901-08; elected to the Council in 1903, he was a vice-president in 1912 and 1913 and president 1917-20. In 1913 he delivered the Bradshaw lecture, and in 1917 he was Hunterian orator. In April 1929 he was awarded the honorary gold medal of the College in recognition of his services, more especially in arranging and describing the specimens in the Army Medical War Collection. He was for some years treasurer of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, and chairman of the distribution committee of the Hospital Sunday Fund.

He married in 1885 Margaret Augusta (d. 1931), daughter of General Vesey Kirkland of Fordel, Perthshire, and widow of Major-General B. Fellowes; there were no children. As Miss Kirkland she accompanied her father wherever he was engaged in military service; as Mrs Fellowes she went with her first husband to South Africa, the West Indies, and Ireland. When he died in 1879 she entered the Nightingale School of Nursing at St Thomas's Hospital and, after a short training, was selected by Florence Nightingale to accompany Sir Frederick Roberts' force to the Transvaal in February 1881. On her return to England she was appointed sister-in-charge of Leopold ward at St Thomas's Hospital, and in 1882 she was seconded for service in the Egyptian war. She again returned to St Thomas's Hospital, and in 1884 was amongst the first to receive from Queen Victoria the decoration of the Royal Red Cross, which had been instituted in the previous year. She accompanied her second husband, G. H. Makins, to the Boer War in 1899. During the war of 1914-18 she was in charge of the Hospital for Facial Injuies in Park Lane. Makins died after a short illness at 33 Wilton Place, S.W., on 2 November 1933, the eve of his eightieth birthday; he was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. He left £1,000 to St Thomas's Hospital Medical School's war memorial fund.

Makins was possessed of great administrative and constructive ability, which was shown so early that MacCormac as secretary-general of the International Medical Congress held in London in 1881 made him the assistant secretary. In this position Makins, by his mastery of detail, did much to ensure the running of the huge meeting, whilst MacCormac took general control and by his personality and linguistic powers supplemented the work. In 1913 Makins as treasurer was most helpful at the International Medical Congress, which was again held in London. As a surgeon he stood in the first rank, skilful, imperturbable, conservative, but resourceful. His wartime experience made him especially interested in diseases and wounds of the blood-vessels. As a man he was certainly the best loved surgeon of his generation. Absolutely honest in thought and purpose, he was a genuine friend, and had a keen desire to help in every good cause. Courteous to all, quiet and unassuming, he was seen at his best sitting before the fire in an old jacket with a pipe in his mouth and his elbow on his knee. In disjointed sentences and with a characteristic smile he would then thresh out a difficult problem in surgery, or give good practical advice. When necessity arose he spoke impressively, shortly, and always to the purpose. Tall, but of a spare and active habit, he took early to mountaineering and was a member of the Alpine Club. He was too a skilful dry-fly fisherman, and shared a cottage on the Test with Sir George H. Savage. A bronze bust by Mrs Bromet stands in the inner hall at the Royal College of Surgeons; it does not do him justice. Makins himself presented it to the College in 1931.

Surgical experiences in South Africa, 1899-1900, being mainly a clinical study of the nature and effects of injuries produced by bullets of small calibre. London, 1901; 2nd edition, 1913.
A case of artificial anus treated by resection of the small intestine. St Thos. Hosp. Rep. 1884, 13, 181.
Rickets, in Treves, System of surgery, 1895, 1, 363.
Surgical diseases due to microbic infection and parasites. Ibid. 1895, 1, 294.
Injuries of the joints; dislocations, in Warren and Gould, International text-book of surgery, 1899, 1, 589.
Gunshot injuries of the arteries (Bradshaw lecture, R.C.S.). London, 1914.
On gunshot injuries to the blood-vessels, founded on experience gained in France during the great war 1914-1918. Bristol, 1919.
Operative surgery of the stomach, with B. G. A. Moynihan. London, 1912.
The influence exerted by the military experience of John Hunter on himself and the military surgeon of today. (Hunterian oration, R.C.S.). Lancet, 1917, 1, 249. Autobiography:- typescript copy, with portrait-photograph, in the R.C.S. library.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 3 November 1933, p.16b; Lancet, 1933, 2, 1122, with portrait, pp.1178 and 1237; Brit. med. J. 1933, 2, 897, with portrait; information given by his niece, Miss M. Warington; there is an account of Lady Makins in The Times, 5 October 1931; personal knowledge.].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England