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Biographical entry Paget, Stephen (1855 - 1926)

MRCS July 23rd 1883; FRCS June 11th 1885; BA Oxon 1878; MA 1886.

8 May 1926
General surgeon


The fourth and youngest son of Sir James Paget, Bart (qv), by his wife Lydia, the youngest daughter of the Rev Henry North, two of whose sons had been curates at Yarmouth. He was educated at St Marylebone and All Souls' Grammar School, 1 Cornwall Terrace, Regent's Park. The school had been founded by his maternal grandfather and affiliated to King's College. It was then under the headmastership of Mr A H Barford, BA, FLS, a good teacher of English who insisted more especially on accurate spelling. Paget passed from London to Shrewsbury. He entered in 1870 and left in 1874, acting as prepostor in 1873, and gaining a sound knowledge of Latin and Greek. From Shrewsbury he went to Oxford, matriculating from Christ Church on Oct 16th, 1874, and graduating BA in 1878. He gained a second class in Classical Moderations and in 'Greats' - the final school in literae humaniores - and held a Fell Exhibition of £40 a year at his college from 1876-1880. He took the MA degree in 1886, but was never a candidate for the MB.

He entered St Bartholomew's Hospital on Oct 1st, 1878, and in due course became House Surgeon to Sir Thomas Smith (qv), the friend and former pupil of his father. He then acted for a time as Secretary to Sir James Paget and as private Assistant to Sir Thomas Smith until he was elected Assistant Surgeon to the Metropolitan Hospital, where he became full Surgeon. He was also Surgeon to the West London Hospital until 1897; he then abandoned general surgery and was appointed Aural Surgeon to the Middlesex Hospital in succession to Leopold Hudson (qv). This post he held until his retirement, when he received the honorary rank of Consulting Surgeon.

During the European War he first lectured at the various camps throughout the country, taking as his subjects hygiene and typhoid inoculation, and then went to Petrograd in charge of the Anglo-Russian Hospital during the years 1916-1917. His health broke down and he retired to Limpsfield, Surrey, where he died at Furzedown on May 8th, 1926, of cerebral haemorrhage, having been partly paralysed for some months.

He married in 1885 Eleanor Mary, the second daughter of Edward Burd, MD, of Shrewsbury, a former pupil of Sir James Paget; by her he had two daughters and with her he lived in unalloyed happiness.

Stephen Paget was in many ways unfitted for the life of an operating surgeon in London. Extremely sensitive and highly cultivated, the wear and tear of practice soon broke down his health. His reputation finds its surest foothold as an essayist. He possessed many of the qualities required of a discerning critic. His style was natural, and was founded on a well-stored mind in which the classical literature of Greece and Rome, as well as that of the English in which he wrote, held the largest place. All his books, therefore, are a pleasure to read. He was an excellent and fluent speaker and a first-rate organizer. The best and most useful part of his life was that which followed on his enforced retirement from professional work. He was instrumental in founding "The Research Defence Society", of which the inaugural meeting was held at his house - 70 Harley Street, W - on Jan 27th, 1908. It was a revival of the Association for the Advancement of Medicine by Research in which his father had been greatly interested twenty-five years before, and was the direct outcome of a committee formed by E H Starling, FRS, Professor of Physiology at University College, to enlighten the public as to the real value of experiments on living animals. Stephen Paget was the mainstay of the Society. He organized meetings in different parts of the country, gave many excellent addresses, wrote innumerable pamphlets and fly-leaves, and took the war into the camp of the Anti-vivisectionists with telling effect. He exposed their fallacies and corrected their false statements, but carefully avoided the personalities in which it was their custom to indulge. For several years he edited The Fight against Disease, the journal of the Society.

"Tumours of the Palate," 8vo, London, 1886; reprinted from St Bart's Hosp Rep, 1886, xxii, 315.
Parotitis after Injury or Disease of the Abdomen or Pelvis, 8vo, London, 1897. The Surgery of the Chest, 8vo, illustrated, Bristol, 1896. A useful manual when thoracic surgery was in its infancy.
John Hunter - Man of Science and Surgeon. This appeared as a volume of "The Masters of Medicine" series in 1897 and is written charmingly. In the same year he published Ambroise Paré and his Times for a New York firm; it is skilfully compiled, but rather overweighted by the illustrations.
Essays for Students, 8vo, London, 1899.
The Memoirs and Letters of Sir James Paget, with portraits, was published in London in 1901. It is undoubtedly the best of Stephen Paget's books. It was a labour of love, and must remain a classic both for the style and the material. It proves an exception to the rule that a biography should not be written by a near relation.
The Young People. By One of the Old People, 8vo, 1906.
Confessio Medici, published in 1908, is more polished in style, but is written in a strain of sadness, as though the author were telling of his own experiences and was approaching ill health.
Experiments on Animals, with an Introduction by Lord Lister, 8vo, 3 plates, 1899; American ed, 1900; 3rd ed, 1906; The Case against Anti-vivisection, l2mo, London, 1904; Another Device: The Faith and Works of Christian Science, 1909; For and Against Experiments on Animals, with an Introduction by Lord Cromer, 8vo, London, 1912; Pasteur and After Pasteur, 1914; I have Reason to Believe, London, 1921 - all are concerned with the anti-vivisection campaign.
He published in 1919 a very skilful study of the Life and Work of Sir Victor Horsley (qv), for he presents a life-like portrait of one with whose views he was not in agreement.
History of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society, 1805-1905 (with Sir NORMAN MOORE). It was published at Aberdeen in 1905.
With the Rev J M C CRUM he wrote a life of his eldest brother, Francis Paget, Bishop of Oxford, 1902.
Lastly, in 1912 there was The Life of Canon Scott Holland - a family friend.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1926, I, 958. Brit Med Jour, 1926, I, 884. The Times, 1926, May 20. Personal knowledge].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England