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Biographical entry Heath, George Yeoman (1820 - 1892)

MRCS May 17th 1843; FRCS April 8th 1886 (elected as member of twenty years' standing); MB Lond 1843; LRCP Edin 1875; Hon MD Durham June 1859; Hon DCL Durham 1886.

Westoe, UK
4 March 1892
Durham, UK
General surgeon


Born at Westoe, near South Shields, his father being a well-known shipowner, his mother related to Dr Winterbottom, Physician to the College of Sierra Leone and author of Diseases of the Natives of Africa; was first apprenticed to his brother Henry, who had a large and varied practice and was Surgeon to numerous collieries. After serving his time Heath studied at Newcastle-upon-Tyne during the session 1839-1840, and then entered University College Hospital, London, where he was Dresser under Liston and gained the Gold Medal for surgery; later he went to Paris.

He then settled in practice at Newcastle and became Surgeon to the Eastern Dispensary. He joined the staff of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne School of Medicine and Surgery in 1845, lectured on surgery and surgical anatomy, and was one of the Committee appointed to wind up the affairs of the school when it was dissolved in the summer of 1851. On the day following the dissolution Heath was present at a meeting for its reorganization. The scheme was successful, and Heath, jointly with his brother Henry Heath, was chosen to lecture on the principles and practice of surgery in the newly established College of Medicine. In 1857 this college was amalgamated with the College of Science and in due course formed the medical faculty of the University of Durham in 1870, when Heath became the University Professor of Surgery. In 1854 he was elected Surgeon to the Newcastle Infirmary, holding that post till 1880, when he became Consulting Surgeon. In June, 1859, he was given the honorary degree of MD Durham. The range of practice at the infirmary was a varied one. Heath distinguished himself as a lithotomist, having performed 104 lateral lithotomies before taking up lithotrity. He was also for a long period Surgeon to the Eye Infirmary. In his Address on Surgery at the Newcastle Meeting of the British Medical Association in 1870 he set out with much wealth of illustration the three characteristics of what he called "Modern Operative Surgery: its Audacity, its Conservatism, and its Success". This was from one of the best of Liston's pupils with a wide reputation as a surgeon, just as Lister's revolution was starting.

Heath was elected President of the Medical College on the death of Dr E Charlton, and held that post until his death. He was also elected Representative of the Durham University Medical School, to which the Newcastle School had become affiliated in 1847, upon the General Medical Council. He served from December, 1887, until his death, when he was succeeded by Sir George Hare Philipson, MD. He suffered from arthritis which impeded his walking, and at last from an abscess of the gall-bladder, as was proved at the post-mortem examination by Dr C J Gibb.

He died at Cocken Hall, near Durham, on March 4th, 1892, and his funeral was largely attended by colleagues and students from the College and Infirmary. The Northumberland and Durham Medical Society passed a vote of condolence. The Heath Professorship of Comparative Pathology and Bacteriology was established in his memory.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Embleton's History of the Medical School, afterwards the Durham College of Medicine, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1890. Lancet, 1892, I, 613].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England