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Biographical entry Jacobson, Walter Hamilton Acland (1847 - 1924)

MRCS 1872; FRCS 1875; BA Oxon 1869; MB 1873; MCh 1887.

16 September 1924
General surgeon


The second son and sixth child of the Rev William Jacobson, sometime Scholar of Lincoln and Fellow of Exeter, then Public Orator and Vice-Principal of Magdalen Hall, soon afterwards Professor of Divinity, and later Bishop of Chester. He was born at the little red-brick house in New College Lane, Oxford. His mother was a daughter of Dawson Turner, banker, of Great Yarmouth. His eldest sister married Sir William Hooker, the botanist; and another, Sir Francis Palgrave, the historian. Walter Jacobson was the godson and namesake of Sir Henry Acland, then Regius Professor of Medicine, and the promoter of the study of Natural Science at Oxford. The classical atmosphere which surrounded him at Oxford was continued at Winchester and again on his entering Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He graduated with first class honours in the School of Natural Science in 1869, entered Guy's Hospital, qualified MRCS in 1872 and FRCS in 1875. Twelve years later, on the establishment of the MCh degree at Oxford, he considered it his duty to sit for it, and was the first to take the degree in March, 1887.

At Guy's Hospital he became Demonstrator of Anatomy, Assistant Surgeon in 1876, and Teacher of Operative Surgery, but did not become full Surgeon until twenty-four years later, in 1900. He was then full Surgeon for five years and Consulting Surgeon for nearly twenty. It was as Assistant Surgeon that he rapidly developed into a wonderful and unrivalled teacher of anatomy and surgery. Much of his experience as an operator was gained as Surgeon to the Hospital for Women and Children in the Waterloo Road. From 1893-1898 he was Examiner in Anatomy, and from 1900-1905 a member of the Court of Examiners in Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, which he conscientiously resigned on ceasing active work at Guy's. He also examined in Surgery for the University of Oxford.

His work at Guy's came before everything; living in Great Cumberland Place, near the Marble Arch, he was accustomed to walk the four miles to Guy's; he would visit as early as 7 o'clock new and urgent cases, and make long preparation by drawing on the blackboard before his lectures. He had a fascinating personality and a scintillating wit, linked with numerous oddities. 'Pom's' personal ascendancy permitted the exercise of blunt truth and sarcasm upon students, but he never meant harm, and natural kindness, sympathy, and generosity made his out-patient class attendances both instructive and amusing. He was the hero of numberless tales, retold whenever Guy's men met, some of which are related in his memorial notices. He retired to Lordine Court, Ewhurst, Sussex, where there was a large garden and a pond.

He married in 1891 Miss Edith Mary Sturgis, of Ewelme, Oxfordshire, who survived him. They had one son, Burton, who in 1905, at the age of 4, fell into the pond and was drowned. This cast a shadow over Jacobson's later years and brought about complete retirement. "The loss of this never-failing sunshine, morning and evening, a solace and encouragement in my very hard work, has led me to lay it down. And I am not only fifty-eight, but fifty-eight plus many years of habitual want of sleep." This was in allusion to persistent insomnia.

At Ewhurst he devoted himself to gardening, sending fruit and vegetables up to Guy's; to the poor of Ewhurst he also made weekly gifts of supplies. During the War he gave Ambulance Lectures in the neighbouring villages. On Sundays he taught the village children Scripture, and after Sunday School encouraged them to play games. His last illness began insidiously; for many months he passed blood at intervals from the bladder, he also passed a small fragment of a papilloma, but he considered himself too old for surgical intervention. He died on Sept 16th, 1924, at the age of 77.

Jacobson's Operations in Surgery (1st ed, 1888) aimed at being more comprehensive in scope and fuller in detail than similar works, and at once became the textbook for all higher examinations in surgery.
Diseases of the Male Generative Organs, 1883.
He revised several editions of John Hilton's classic Rest and Pain.
He contributed to Holmes's System of Surgery and Heath's Dictionary of Surgery. He was the English editor of the Annals of Surgery from 1896-1903.

Sources used to compile this entry: [In Memoriam, Walter Hamilton Acland Jacobson, by R P Rowlands, MS, with portrait. Guy's Hosp Rep, 1925, lxxv, 125. The Times, 1924, Sept 17th].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England