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Biographical entry Hingston, The Hon Sir William Hales (1829 - 1907)

Knight Bachelor May 2nd 1895; Hon FRCS July 25th 1900; MD McGill 1851; LRCS Edin 1852.

Huntingdon, Quebec, Canada
19 February 1907
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
General surgeon


Born at Hinchbrook, Huntingdon, in the province of Quebec, on June 29th, 1829, the eldest son of Lieut-Colonel Samuel James Hingston, who was of Irish extraction, by his second wife Eleanor McGrath, of Montreal. Like his father he was a Roman Catholic and was educated at the Montreal College of St Sulpice. He was apprenticed to R W Rexford, a chemist in Montreal, in 1844 and saved enough money from his small earnings as a clerk to obtain a medical training without other help. He entered McGill University in 1847, and after graduating in pharmacy at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Lower Canada in 1849, took the degree of MD in 1851. In the same year he went to Edinburgh and studied under Sir James Y Simpson and James Syme. In 1852 he obtained the LRCS of Edinburgh and then came to London, where he attended St Bartholomew's Hospital. From London he went to Dublin, and having a perfect knowledge of French and some knowledge of German, spent two years in Paris, Berlin, Heidelberg, and Vienna. Sir James Simpson wished him to settle in Edinburgh, but he preferred to return to Canada, and began to practise at Montreal in 1854. During the second year of his practice he passed through an epidemic of cholera, in which he won the devotion of the Irish poor.

In 1860 he was nominated to the staff of the Hotel-Dieu, and here he introduced into Canada the practice of excising diseased joints. In 1865 he was instrumental in reviving the Montreal Medico-Chirurgical Society, of which he became President, and he founded the Women's Hospital. He remained on the active staff of the Women's Hospital till it was amalgamated with the new Western Hospital, of which he was a charter member, Consulting Surgeon, and Chairman of the Medical Board. He revisited Edinburgh in 1867. In 1873 he became Dean of the Medical Faculty at Bishop's College, and in 1878 Professor of Clinical Surgery at Laval University. He was President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Quebec in 1886, and worked hard to make vaccination compulsory in Montreal. He advocated ovariotomy, and in 1885 was able to report a series of thirteen cases without a death, although he did not practise the methods advocated by Lister. In 1892 he delivered the Address in Surgery at the Nottingham Meeting of the British Medical Association.

Hingston was equally prominent in the public life of Canada. He was Mayor of Montreal in 1875, was re-elected by acclamation in 1876, but declined nomination a third year. He was Chairman of the Board of Health for the City, and in 1885 of the Province. He was also President of the City Passenger Railway in 1875, and of the Montreal City and District Savings Bank in 1895. He received many honours. He was gazetted a knight bachelor on May 2nd, 1895, and was appointed Commander of the Roman Order of St Gregory in 1875. He was an Hon DCL of Bishop's College, Lennoxville, and Hon LLD of Victoria University, Toronto. He was defeated as Conservative candidate in Montreal Centre for the House of Commons in 1895, but was appointed a Member of the Senate in 1896.

He married on Sept 16th, 1875, Margaret Josephine, daughter of David Alexander Macdonald, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario. She survived him and there were four sons and one daughter of the marriage. The second son was on the surgical staff of the Hotel-Dieu. Sir William Hingston died at Montreal on Feb 19th, 1907, and was buried in Mount Royal Cemetery. A portrait by J Colin Forbes is in possession of the family. There is also a portrait by Delfosse at the City and District Savings Bank, Montreal.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Dict Nat Biog, Supplement 2, sub nomine et auct ibi cit].

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