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Biographical entry Hussey, Edward Law (1816 - 1899)

MRCS Feb 7th 1845; FRCS Aug 16th 1849; MRCP Edin 1859.

6 April 1816
23 April 1899
General surgeon


The second son of William Hussey, solicitor, Chapter Clerk of Rochester and Mayor of Maidstone in 1838, his mother being Anna Maria, daughter of Charles Law, of Calcutta. He was born on April 6th, 1816, was educated at Rochester Cathedral Grammar School, and studied medicine at St Bartholomew's Hospital, where he entered in 1842 after having received some law training in his father's office and as an articled student to Richard Welbank, of 102 Chancery Lane, in whose house he resided. At St Bartholomew's Hospital he was a pupil of Edward Rigby and a dresser for Sir William Lawrence. He acted for a time as House Surgeon to the General Lying-in Hospital and Surgeon-Accoucheur to the Finsbury Dispensary. He then settled in Oxford, where his uncle, the Rev Robert Hussey, was Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History, and his brother, William Law Hussey, was a Senior Student of Christ Church. He was admitted as 'Chirurgus privilegiatus' in 1849 and was elected Surgeon to the Radcliffe Infirmary on Feb 21st, 1850, his competitors being Thomas Tyerman and Richard James Hansard. He resigned his office in 1878 and was made an honorary Life Governor. He was elected representative of the South Ward in the City Council in 1876, but resigned in April, 1877, after his appointment as Coroner for the City, a position he retained until 1894. He was Consulting Surgeon to the Warneford and the County Lunatic Asylums and was for some time Surgeon Major to the Oxfordshire Rifle Volunteers.

He married: (1) Lucy Annie, daughter of H G Armstrong and a niece of Edward Robert Owen (qv), Surgeon to the Oxford Lying-in Institute; they had a stillborn child; (2) Maria Caroline Henrietta, daughter of T T Coar, also a surgeon in Oxford who had been in practice before 1815; and (3) Anna Maria Hussey, his cousin. He left no children. He practised at 58 Cornmarket and afterwards at St Aldate's. He died at 24 Winchester Road, Oxford, on April 23rd, 1899, and was buried at Sandford-on-Thames.

Hussey was a man of ardent temper, quick to see faults whether personal or administrative, and possessed of a consuming desire to amend them. He was often at loggerheads with those with whom he had to work, and he preferred to adjust matters by writing letters of a semilegal character rather than by the simpler method of a personal explanation. It is easily imagined, therefore, that he was not a persona grata, and his difficulties were increased when he became Coroner and might have to hold inquests on those who had died under his care in the infirmary. He had, however, a high ideal of the duties of his office and did much to abolish the perfunctory verdicts of "died because his time had come" or "died by the visitation of God". He was also instrumental in getting a city mortuary built to replace the old and long-standing scandal of the shed and the public house. Unwittingly, and owing to his unaccommodating frame of mind, he benefited hospital surgeons throughout England. As Coroner he caused Horatio Symonds, one of his colleagues at the Radcliffe Infirmary, to be brought before him under a writ of arrest. Symonds appealed to the Home Office, and was successful in obtaining a ruling that it was sufficient in ordinary cases that a house surgeon should attend an inquest to give evidence. Hussey made an ample apology to Symonds on Feb 21st, 1879, and paid him £20 as damages, which was immediately given to the infirmary as a donation.

Hussey was not amenable to new ideas or advances in medicine and surgery. The stethoscope he called 'the wonder oracle'; the hypodermic syringe, 'the spike'; the faradic battery, 'the musical instrument'; and when a new house surgeon introduced Listerian methods Hussey told the Committee that "the house seems to be at the mercy of a young fellow who was doing his best to poison the patients with carbolic acid". He was not a good surgeon, and an operation usually had to be finished by his house surgeon.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Gibson's The Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, 1926, 172, et auct ibi cit].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England