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Biographical entry Pye, Walter (1853 - 1892)

MRCS July 31st 1876; FRCS Dec 12th, 1878.

2 September 1892
General surgeon and Physiologist


The son of Kellow Pye, a well-known physician; was sent to Magdalen College School, Oxford, where he was a chorister in Magdalen College Chapel. His Magdalen College period imbued him with a love of art and literature which characterized him throughout life. After school he wandered and learnt abroad, as assistant in Professor Young's Expedition to the South of Spain, to observe the corona during an eclipse of the sun; then in China among brothers and friends he became acquainted with Manson, who aroused in him an interest which led him to become a medical student. He therefore entered St Bartholomew's Hospital and, having qualified in 1876, acted as House Physician to Dr Reginald Southey and House Surgeon to George Callender and William Savory.

His articles on the "Development of the Kidney" in the Journal of Anatomy, 1875, ix, 272, and on the "Action of Erythrophleum guinense" (with T LAUDER BAUNTON) (Phil Trans, 1877, clxvii, 627), attracted much notice. The marked attention which he paid to physiology led to his appointment as Lecturer on Physiology at St Mary's Hospital Medical School, whilst recommendation from the St Bartholomew's Surgeons led to his election upon the surgical staff of St Mary's Hospital at the age of 24, a year before becoming FRCS. He was for a time Clinical Assistant at the Royal Ophthalmic Hospital, Moorfields. In 1878 he was appointed for a year Anatomical Assistant in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, and during that period he revised the catalogue of surgical instruments, getting help from a surgeon's cutler of long experience in the firm of Messrs Weiss & Sons.

Haynes Walton (qv) was much impressed by the excellence of some dissections made by Pye, and supported his advancement at St Mary's Hospital. Pye resigned his lectureship on physiology in 1879, becoming Tutor and then Lecturer on Practical Surgery. He was Surgeon to Out-patients at the Victoria Hospital for Sick Children from 1880-1891, when his health failed, and he was never elected Surgeon. His work in the College of Surgeons Museum, continued with his surgical appointments, supplied him with the means of writing the book which has perpetuated his name - Surgical Handicraft (208 illustrations, London, 1884), continued in many editions (8th ed, 1919) after his death.

As Hunterian Professor of Surgery and Pathology at the College in 1890 he lectured on "Growth-Rates of the Body and Especially of the Limbs in their Relation to the Natural and Surgical Processes of Rectification of Deformity". This is primarily an orthopaedic subject, and Pye had developed the Orthopaedic Department at St Mary's Hospital. He also published The Surgical Treatment of the Common Deformities of Children (8vo, illustrated, Bristol, 1890).
He was besides Surgeon to the Metropolitan Convalescent Institute and Lecturer for the London University Extension Society. At one time he was Examiner in Surgery at the University of Glasgow.

He had suffered from influenza in two successive winters, and had not recovered health; preparation for his lectures at the College of Surgeons, also for the third edition of his Handicraft, all led up to a breakdown in September, 1890; he obtained three months' leave of absence, and went to Cairo. He returned with signs of organic nervous disease, which progressed during the following two years, and he died on Sept 2nd, 1892. One marked sign of the disease was that he entirely lost a sense of time and would come to his out-patient room at nine o'clock at night thinking that it was only one-thirty. He married but left no children; his wife survived him. He practised at 4 Sackville Street, Piccadilly, W.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1892, ii, 916. Personal knowledge].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England