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Biographical entry Folker, William Henry (1826 - 1912)

MRCS July 4th 1851; FRCS June 9th 1864; LM 1852; LSA 1852.

Brighton, UK
20 March 1912
Hanley, Staffordshire, UK
General surgeon and Ophthalmic surgeon


Born at Brighton, and received his education at New College School, Oxford. He was then apprenticed to James Fernandez Clarke, the well-known medical biographer attached to the staff of the Lancet, and afterwards completed his professional training at Charing Cross Hospital, where, among other prizes, he gained the final Silver Medal for Clinical Work. Eventually he studied in Paris under such masters as Trousseau, Velpeau, NĂ©laton, Malgaigne, Ricord, and Dubois. After qualifying he was elected, in 1853, House Surgeon of the North Staffs Infirmary, but resigned in three years' time and started in general practice at Hanley. In 1858 he was elected to the visiting staff of the Infirmary as Hon Surgeon, and held this post till 1890, when he became Surgeon to the New Ophthalmic Department, and held office till 1892, when he was elected Consulting Surgeon on his retirement. He continued, however, to be actively interested in the administrative work of the hospital, and was Vice-President in 1904-1905, and President in 1906. In 1899 he had given the first impulse to the movement for the erection of the King Edward VII Nurses' Home, and saw his project realized three years later in the fine building wherein the hospital nursing staff is accommodated.

He was one of the first batch of certifying surgeons to be appointed by the Home Office under the Factory Act, and held the post to within a few years of his death, when his son succeeded him. Folker served enthusiastically in the Volunteers, which he joined in 1859. In 1860 he was appointed Battalion Surgeon to the 1st Battalion Staffs Volunteer Rifles, and retired with the Long Service Decoration in 1886. He was a Conservative in politics, and a Past Master of the Sutherland Lodge of Freemasons, 451, and held provincial rank in the Godefroi de Bouillon Preceptory. A dinner was given in his honour by his many friends in 1903, to celebrate the jubilee of his connection with the North Staffs Infirmary.

A placid geniality of disposition, an unswerving steadfastness in friendship, and an invincible optimism were his main characteristics, and this combination of qualities inspired him with a well-nigh perpetual youth. His popularity among his younger colleagues was based on his power of giving advice as a senior and of sympathizing as a contemporary. He was a complete invalid for three years before he died at his residence, Bedford House, Hanley, on March 20th, 1912.

He married in 1857 Ellen Jane, daughter of George Henry Fourdrinier, the well-known paper-maker, and was survived by four children, of whom the eldest son, Herbert Henry Folker, was Surgeon to the Ophthalmic Department at the North Staffs Infirmary.

Folker's year of Presidency of the Staffordshire Branch of the British Medical Association was signalized by an address on the "Surgery of the Extremities", in which he compared the results of the many changes and advances in technique with which he had been personally associated. He wrote also on his own modifications of the operations for the cure of haemorrhoids and varicose veins, which involved specially devised instruments which carried his name.

"Case of Tumour of the Tongue successfully Operated on." - Lancet, 1863, ii, 445.
"Successful Ligature of the External Iliac." - Ibid., 1864, ii, 89.
"Secondary Haemorrhage - Successful Ligature of the Subclavian." - Ibid., 1868, I, 313.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England