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Biographical entry Coats, George (1876 - 1915)

MRCS Dec 10th 1903; FRCS Dec 10th 1903; MB ChB Glasgow 1897; MD 1901.

Paisley, Scotland, UK
2 November 1915
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Ophthalmic surgeon


Born at Paisley, the fourth and youngest son of Allan Coats, who was brother of Joseph Coats, Professor of Pathology in the University of Glasgow. He entered Glasgow University in 1892 and took the first place in the pathology class and in surgery. He held resident appointments in the Royal, Western, and Eye Infirmaries in Glasgow, and determined to adopt ophthalmology as his life's work. He therefore went to Vienna in the autumn of 1901 and attended the Ophthalmic Clinics in Munich, Freiburg, and Zurich, bicycling from one town to another.

He returned to London in 1902 and became Clinical Assistant at the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital, Moorfields, and in 1905 was appointed Pathologist and Curator at that hospital. In this position he devoted himself to scientific research on the eye, both in its human and comparative aspects. He dealt more especially with vascular diseases of the eye, on which he published numerous important papers, the most valuable being on "Exudative Retinitis" (which came to be referred to as 'Coats' disease') and on "Obstruction of the Central Vein of the Retina". Both papers gained him a European reputation. Another research dealt with congenital abnormalities of the eye and formed the basis of his Hunterian Lectures at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1910. He published a paper in 1915 on the "Choroid and Retina of the Fruit-eating Bat", which embodied the results of much study at the Gardens of the Zoological Society. He served for three years as Secretary to the Ophthalmological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and in 1912 was awarded the Nettleship Medal and Prize. He was elected Assistant Ophthalmic Surgeon to the Great Northern Central Hospital in 1906, Assistant Surgeon to the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital, Moorfields, in 1909, and Assistant Ophthalmic Surgeon to St. Mary's Hospital in 1911. He was also for a short time Ophthalmic Surgeon to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. He died, unmarried, after an operation in a nursing home at Edinburgh on Nov 2nd, 1915.

Coats had a truly scientific mind, and everything that he undertook was done thoroughly. His bent was in the direction of pathology, but he was also a good practical surgeon. He was an omnivorous reader and a great lover of music, being himself a good musician. He was hampered throughout his life by ill health. Shortly before his death he presented his Collected Works (2 vols, London, 1904-1914) to the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1915, ii, 1110, 1161. Ophthal. Rev., 1915, xxxiv, 359, with portrait and bibliography].

The Royal College of Surgeons