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Biographical entry Wallace, Sir Cuthbert Sidney (1867 - 1944)

Baronet 1937; K.C.M.G. 1919; C.M.G. 1916; C.B. 1918; D.S.M., USA. 1919; Officier, Légion d'Honneur 1937; M.R.C.S. 12 November 1891; F.R.C.S. 8 June 1893; M.B., B.S. London 1894; L.R.C.P. 1891; Hon. D.Sc. Oxford 1936; Hon. D.C.L. Durham.

20 June 1867
Surbiton, Surrey, UK
24 May 1944
London, UK
General surgeon


Born at Surbiton, Surrey, on 20 June 1867, the fourth and youngest son of the Rev. John Wallace, of Weysprings, Haslemere, and Agnes Greenaway, his wife. He was educated at Haileybury, 1881-86, and at St Thomas's Hospital. After taking the Fellowship in 1893 he went on, the following year, to the London M.B., B.S. examination, at which he won the gold medal in obstetric medicine and qualified for the gold medal in surgery. At St Thomas's Wallace served as house surgeon, senior obstetric house physician, and surgical registrar 1894-96, and in 1897 was appointed resident assistant surgeon. In this post he began the introduction of the strictest asepsis into the Hospital's practice, and by his enthusiasm and practical ability persuaded the senior staff and the governors to carry through the necessary re-equipment of the operating theatres and the modernizing and electrifying of the wards. The material needs of this pioneer policy were supplied by the Gassiot bequest. As a result of this modernization, hospital authorities and surgeons of many countries came to look to St Thomas's and to Wallace for inspiration and advice in similar problems. In the middle of this work Wallace volunteered for active war service in South Africa. He served 1899-1900 as surgeon to the Portland Hospital under his friend Anthony Bowlby of Bart's, won the medal, and recorded his experiences jointly with Bowlby in A civilian war hospital, published in 1901. His experience of the surgery of war-wounds came to stand him in good stead for later, greater campaigns.

Returning to London he developed a brilliant career. Wallace's hands were particularly in demand in cases of enlarged prostate and of acute appendicitis; his surgery was marked by skilled economy of time and perspicacious common-sense. At St Thomas's he passed through the offices of assistant surgeon 1900, surgeon 1913, and lecturer on surgery. He was also surgeon to the East London Hospital for Children. He was dean of St Thomas's Hospital Medical School in 1907, a post to which he returned more than ten years later. On the outbreak of the war he went to France as consulting surgeon to the First Army, British Expeditionary Force, with the temporary rank of colonel, Army Medical Service, dated 29 April 1915; he was promoted major-general on 19 December 1917. Bowlby as consultant to the Second Army at St Omer had oversight of the First as well. Authority disapproved of surgical interference in gunshot wounds of the belly; but Wallace was sympathetic to the urgent appeals of his juniors, and "smuggled" the necessary instruments to the front when inspecting casualty clearing stations; thanks to his encouragement the field surgery of abdominal wounds quickly vindicated itself in practice. John Campbell made the first successful operation for gunshot wound of the stomach, Owen Richards, F.R.C.S. the first successful small-intestine resection, and Claude Frankau, F.R.C.S the first successful resection of the colon for gunshot injury. Wallace's survey of these and further results in his War surgery of the abdomen, 1918, became a classic textbook, in demand on the renewal of war in the next generation. He also published jointly with Sir John Fraser, K.C.V.O., Surgery at a casualty clearing station, illustrated by Lady Fraser, 1918. While in France, Wallace took a major share in the disposition and administration of the base hospitals. On 28 October 1915 he was called to attend King George V, who had been thrown from his horse while inspecting the R.F.C. aerodrome at Hesdigneul; the King was seriously injured, but resumed full activity in the following February. Wallace was nearly captured at St Venant, when his driver took a wrong turn during the German spring offensive of 1918. For his war service Wallace was created C.M.G in 1916 and C.B. in 1918, and promoted K.C.M.G. in 1919; he had been several times mentioned in despatches, and was also awarded the American Distinguished Service Medal. It was in these years that Wallace found scope for the fullest exercise of his great abilities both surgical and administrative.

On his return to St Thomas's he served as senior surgeon and director of the surgical unit for several years, being then elected consulting surgeon, and was dean of the medical school for a record period. He was also dean of the Medical Faculty of the University of London. At the Royal College of Surgeons he was elected both to Court and Council in 1919, and served on the Court for ten years and on the Council for twenty-four years till within a few months of his death. In 1923 and 1929 he was appointed an examiner in surgery on the Dental Board; he gave the Bradshaw lecture in 1927, and the Hunterian oration in 1934. He was a vice-president in 1926-27, and president 1935-38. In 1937 he was created a Baronet. Wallace was elected a trustee of the Hunterian collection in 1942. In February 1943 he put before the Council an informal memorandum on the Fellowship. He gave the College library a specially typed copy of the unpublished autobiography of Sir George Makins, under whom he had long served at St Thomas's, at the College, and in France; he had it finely bound by Mrs Loosely, sister of Sir D'Arcy Power, one of the best bookbinders in the country. Wallace's counsel was much in demand. He served on the Radium Commission and the Medical Research Council, and was chairman of the M.R.C. radiology committee; from 1930 he was director of medical services and research at the Mount Vernon Hospital, Hampstead, under the M.R.C. and the Radium Commission. From 1920 he was a hospital visitor under King Edward's Hospital Fund for London, and later a member of its general council and distribution committee. He was also chairman of several committees of the British Empire Cancer Campaign; and for nine years (1935-44) chairman of the London and Counties Medical Protection Society. During the official visit of British surgeons on 5 and 6 July 1937 to the newly reconstituted Académie de Chirurgie in Paris he was decorated an Officer of the Legion of Honour by the President of the Republic. In 1929 he was gazetted honorary colonel of the 47th (2nd London) Unit of the R.A.M.C. (T.F.).

On the outbreak of the second world-war Wallace was appointed chairman of the consultant advisers to the Ministry of Health's emergency medical service; he was also a member of the Army Medical Advisory Board, and in June 1940 was appointed chairman of the Medical Research Council's committee on the application of the results of research to the treatment of war wounds. He received honorary degrees from Oxford, Durham, and Birmingham Universities, and was an honorary Fellow of the American Surgical Association. He took an active interest in the welfare of his old school, Haileybury. Wallace married on 6 July 1912 Florence Mildred, youngest daughter of Herbert Jackson of Sussex Place, Regent's Park, who survived him but without children. He had lived at 5 Cambridge Terrace, Regent's Park N.W., and died in Mount Vernon Hospital on 24 May 1944, less than a month before his seventy-seventh birthday. He was privately buried and a memorial service, arranged by the Royal College, St Thomas's, and Mount Vernon, was held in the chapel of Lincoln's Inn on 8 June 1944. His country house was at Whipsnade, near Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Wallace was a brilliant surgeon whose obiter dicta, such as "the surgeon who does not trust the peritoneum if not fit to do abdominals", or "the key to gastrectomy is the mobilisation of the lesser curvature", were treasured by those who heard them. He made his way to a unique place among his fellow surgeons by sheer ability and honest practical shrewdness, coupled with a warm-hearted wish to help, whether as surgeon, teacher, or counsellor. He was of middle height and upright carriage, and in later years with his bright complexion and white hair had the air of a distinguished solider, accentuated by his pepper-and-salt suit and blue-and-white spotted bow-tie. He was an excellent chairman, as economic of time here as he had been in the operating theatre. His somewhat brusque manner and speech were belied by his humour and his ability to win the affection of all with whom he worked.


Wallace contributed in early years to St Thomas's Hospital Reports and to the Transactions of the Clinical and Pathological Societies. His writings include: A civilian war hospital, being an account of the work of the Portland Hospital and of experience of wounds and sickness in South Africa [issued anonymously, with A. Bowlby]. London, 1901.
Prostatic enlargement, with section on Bacteriology by Leonard S. Dudgeon. London, 1907.
A study of 1200 cases of gunshot wounds of the abdomen. Brit. J. Surg. 1917, 4, 679-743.
War surgery of the abdomen. London, 1918.
Surgery at a casualty clearing station, with Sir John Fraser; illustrated by Lady Fraser. London, 1918.
Surgery of the war, edited jointly with Sir Wm. Grant Macpherson, Sir A. A. Bowlby, and Sir T. Crisp English, in the official War Office History of the Medical Services in the Great War of 1914-18. H.M.S.O., 1922, 2 vols.
A review of prostatic enlargement, Bradshaw lecture, R.C.S. Lancet, 1927, 2, 1059-1064.
Medical education 1760-1934, Hunterian oration, R.C.S., 1934. Not published, the author's transcript is in the College library.
Thoughts on the Fellowship, 1943. Unpublished memorandum laid before the College Council, February 1943.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 31 May 1944, p. 8c, 8 June, p. 7d, tribute from Sir E. F. Buzzard, G.E. Gask and C. M. Page, 9 June, p. 7b, memorial service; Lancet, 1944, 1, 775, with portrait in military uniform and eulogies by Sir Claude Frankau, F.R.C.S. and Sir Ernest Rock Carling, F.R.C.S., and p. 806, euology by Surgeon Rear-Admiral Sir Gordon Gordon-Taylor, F.R.C.S; Brit. med. J. 1944, 1, 797, with portrait and eulogies by Sir Francis Fraser, F.R.C.P., director-general E.M.S., and Sir Ernest Cowell, K.B.E., F.R.C.S., and 1944, 2, 28, euology by G. Gordon-Taylor as in Lancet; St Thos. Hosp. Gaz. 1944, 42, 134, with portrait; Brit. J. Surg. 1944, 32, 329-330, with portrait; Royal College of Surgeons, A record of the years from 1901 to 1950, London, 1951, p. 66, by Sir Max Page; information given by Lady Wallace; personal knowledge.].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England