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Biographical entry Page, William Bousfield (1817 - 1886)

MRCS Oct 29th 1841; FRCS Dec 11th 1856; MSA 1841; JP for Cumberland and Carlisle.

Ashford, Kent
5 January 1886
General surgeon


Born at Ashford in Kent, and began the study of his profession as pupil of John Scott (1798-1846) (qv), Surgeon to the London Hospital. He always referred to this early association as one from which he derived incalculable benefit, for under Scott a large consulting city practice and the practice of one of the largest hospitals in London were both open to the student in search of experience, and Page was an exceptionally receptive learner. Scott recommended his pupil, now become his confidential assistant, to the Governors of the new Cumberland Infirmary, who had been asked by Bishop Percy to nominate an Acting Surgeon. The post was offered to three men afterwards well known, namely Curling, Critchett, and lastly Page, who accepted it, thus losing the chance of rising to eminence in London.

He entered Carlisle on New Year's Day, 1842, almost frozen, having travelled in a biting frost outside the coach from Preston. "All sensation in my lower limbs", he says, "was gone by the time I had got over Shapfells; and when I had taken off my boots, I had to look to see if my toes were still in them." He knew no one in the northern cathedral town, and his position was at first rendered awkward owing to his not being aware of the controversies that had attended his nomination and appointment. He was then only 24 years old, but by dint of tact, energy, and skill in surgery he soon made friends. In a very short time he took the leading place at the Infirmary and was consulted by most of the county families and by the cathedral clergy, who placed implicit confidence in him to the end.

He was appointed Surgeon to the County Gaol, Consulting Surgeon to the Asylum, and Surgeon to three of the great railway companies whose lines pass through Carlisle. From the range of experience thus afforded, he came to be largely consulted by other companies in difficult cases. Page's influence was always, if possible, exerted so as to avoid litigation; and his great tact and knowledge of human nature, as well as the confidence reposed in him alike by the companies and the public, gave him a power to resist extravagant claims while conceding what was just and even generous; in consequence of which he was but rarely unsuccessful in attaining the end in view.

It is unfortunate that he early ceased to contribute to the medical journals, for the stores of information to which his conversation bore witness were of exceptional value.

He is constantly mentioned as a trusted friend and medical adviser in William Benham's Catherine and Craufurd Tait. Sir James Graham, of Netherby, was his life-long patient, and Bousfield Page described this statesman's deathbed as one of the grandest scenes of simple fortitude and almost sublime faith in the unseen which he had ever witnessed.

Page continued in active practice to within a year of his death, though he had retired from his position as Acting Surgeon to the Cumberland Infirmary in 1877, when he was appointed Consulting Surgeon. Climbing a steep hill to keep a professional engagement, he became conscious of heart trouble. He suddenly suffered a collapse of his health, dying in a few months' time at his country residence, St Anne's, near Carlisle, on Jan 5th, 1886. By his marriage in 1844 with a daughter of William Nanson, Town Clerk of Carlisle, he had four sons and four daughters, of whom Herbert William Page (qv) was the eldest.

Page was a pioneer ovariotomist and performed a successful operation as early as April 5th, 1845. He also carried out excision of the knee with great success, attaining perfect results in 1846, at a time when the operation was still in discredit. Lithotomy, of which he had many successful cases; acupressure in the arrest of haemorrhage; the treatment of ununited fracture (Med-Chir Trans, 1848, xxxi, 135); the successful treatment of tetanus by the administration of aconite - on all these subjects he has left important records, which may be studied with interest and with gain.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information given by his eldest son, Herbert William Page (qv). Lancet, 1886, i, 181; Brit Med Jour, 1886, i, 232].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England