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Biographical entry Greene, William Henry Clayton (1874 - 1926)

CBE 1919; MRCS Nov 8th 1900; FRCS Dec 12th 1901; LRCP Lond 1900; BA MB BCh Cantab 1901; Chevalier de la L├ęgion d'Honneur.

29 June 1926
General surgeon


The son of H Clayton Greene, of Liverpool, and grandson of Isaac Penny, of Liscard Manor, Cheshire. He was educated at Oundle and Rossall Schools and at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he graduated with an ordinary degree.

He obtained the Open University Scholarship with which he entered St Mary's Hospital in 1898. He won the Kerslake Scholarship in Pathology and Bacteriology, then acted as House Surgeon and was appointed Surgical Registrar in 1902. He became Surgeon to Out-patients and Lecturer on Anatomy in 1905. From 1907-1910 he was Dean of the Medical School, and in 1911 he was promoted full Surgeon and Lecturer on Surgery, becoming Consulting Surgeon on his resignation in 1924. He was also Surgeon to the French Hospital, to the Hampstead General Hospital, and to the Radium Institute. He was a member of the Conjoint Examining Board in 1907, and examined in anatomy for the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1914. He also examined in surgery at the University of Cambridge and at the Society of Apothecaries.

During the War (1914-1918) he was Surgeon to the King George V Hospital and to King Edward VII's Hospital for Officers, and for his services was decorated CBE. He pricked his finger with a spicule of bone whilst operating on a war wound and suffered from a severe streptococcal infection. This was followed by an unrecognized attack of diphtheria with typical but transitory paralysis. He therefore resigned all his appointments in 1924 and moved to Guernsey, where he continued to operate as surgical partner in a firm of general practitioners.

He married May, only daughter of Captain W H Guy, RNR. He died after two days' illness on June 29th, 1926, at Springfield, Queen's Road, Guernsey, leaving a widow and two children.

Clayton-Greene's operative skill and precision were remarkable, and he made a figure in the London surgical world. He was famous outside his own school, and drew many visitors from other hospitals and from abroad to watch him operate. He gave anxious thought to every patient under his care and was one of those who could never banish their cases from their minds. His behaviour, it is said, was an unfailing barometer of how his cases were progressing. When he was very worried he had a habit of twisting his hair into points. When bedtime came and things were going well his dark hair lay smoothly on his temples; but if a patient were not doing well a fringe of twisted points stuck up along his forehead.

Clayton-Greene was also remarkable as a lecturer. His incisive delivery and somewhat dogmatic manner made him popular. He would stride into the theatre, start speaking almost before he had reached the table, and give a balanced and critical discourse on any subject in surgery. There was no disease, however obscure its pathology or indefinite its course, that he could not fix as a clear picture in the minds of his hearers.

Articles on "Tetanus", "Abscess", and "Whitlow" in Hutchison and Sherren's Index of Treatment.
Edited the later editions of Pye's Surgical Handicraft, which he largely re-wrote and in which he crystallized some of his ward teaching.
Section on "Diseases of the Tongue" in Choyce's System of Surgery, vol. Ii.
"Treatment of Acute Suppression of Urine by Incision of Kidneys" (with W J HARRIS) - Proc Roy Soc Med (Clin Sect), 1910-11, iv, 161.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1926, ii, 98, with portrait. Brit Med Jour, 1926, ii, 97. St Mary's Hosp Gaz, 1926, xxxii, 92].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England