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Biographical entry May, Edward Hooper (1831 - 1914)

MRCS April 21st 1854; FRCS Dec 11th 1856; LSA 1854; MD St Andrews 1860.

2 November 1831
23 September 1914
General surgeon


Born on Nov 2nd, 1831, in the house at Tottenham High Cross at which he lived and died. His father, E C May (qv) came of a family of Quakers. After going to a private school he studied at St Bartholomew's Hospital, where he was dresser to Edward Stanley and Clinical Clerk to Sir George Burrows. After qualifying he served for a year under Syme, whom to the last, so he told his colleagues Mr Carson and Witty shortly before his death, he considered to be the greatest surgeon of modern times. In 1885 Lister was then Resident Surgeon at the Edinburgh Infirmary and May acted as dresser under him. If work kept them late at the Infirmary, when the work was over Lister used to pull out a flute and say, "Now I will give you a tune", which often kept them up still later. In old age May seems to have confused his memories of Syme with those of Lister.

In 1856 May started in practice at Tottenham. In 1864 he helped to establish a dispensary, which later became known as the Tottenham and Edmonton General Dispensary. In connection with a Community of Evangelical Protestant Deaconesses, May was one of the founders in 1867 of the Tottenham Hospital, which eventually became the Prince of Wales's General Hospital. He was on the active Staff as Surgeon until he retired on account of age, and became Consulting Surgeon.

An excellent training under Lister - he followed Lister's methods - included the use of the spray for a while. He numbered among his friends Sir James Paget, Sir Jonathan Hutchinson, and Dr Hughlings Jackson, and had a courtesy and cheeriness of manner which made him an ideal general practitioner, as well as a good surgeon. In operating for a lumbar abscess, he removed a renal calculus before the case recorded by Sir Henry Morris.

In addition May was the Medical Officer of St Katherine's College, of the Drapers' Girls' Orphanage School and Drapers' Almshouses. He died on Sept 23rd, 1914, his funeral being attended by colleagues and by representatives of the Prince of Wales's Hospital. He was survived by Mrs May and a family, none of his sons following the medical profession. His portrait in old age accompanies his biography in the British Medical Journal (1914, ii, 650). A photograph of him as a younger man is in the Fellows' Album.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England