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Biographical entry Wheelhouse, Claudius Galen (1826 - 1909)

MRCS May 25th 1849; FRCS June 9th 1864; LSA 1850; Hon DSc Leeds 1904; Hon LLD McGill 1897; JP for East Riding of Yorkshire.

29 December 1826
Snaith, Yorkshire
9 April 1909
General surgeon


Born at Snaith in Yorkshire on Dec 29th, 1826, the second son of James Wheelhouse, surgeon. At the age of 7 he left the Grammar School at Snaith for the Christ's Hospital Preparatory School at Hertford, and entered Christ's Hospital [the Bluecoat School], London, in 1836.

He was apprenticed when he was 16 to R C Ward, of Ollerton, Newark, and derived such benefit that he advocated the system of apprenticeship ever afterwards. He entered the Leeds School of Medicine in October, 1846, and three years later obtained the MRCS diploma. He then went to the Mediterranean on a yachting cruise as Surgeon to Lord Lincoln, afterwards fifth Duke of Newcastle and Secretary of State for War. He took with him one of the first photographic cameras and obtained many good pictures in spite of the cumbrous apparatus then in use.

He returned to England in 1851 and entered into partnership with Joseph Prince Garlick, of Park Row, Leeds, the Senior Surgeon to the Dispensary and Lecturer on Surgery in the Leeds School of Medicine. Wheelhouse was elected in the same year Surgeon to the Public Dispensary and Demonstrator of Anatomy in the Medical School, where he was successively Lecturer on Anatomy, Physiology, and Surgery. He was twice President of the School, and when the new University of Leeds was inaugurated in October, 1904, he was made a Doctor of Science honoris causa.

He was Surgeon to the Leeds Infirmary from March, 1884. At the Royal College of Surgeons of England he served on the Council from 1876-1881.

At the British Medical Association he acted as President of the Council from 1881-1884; presided at the Leeds Meeting in 1889 and in 1897. When the Association held its annual meeting at Montreal, he received the Gold Medal of the Association, whilst the McGill College made him an Hon LLD.

In 1886, when the Medical Act brought direct representatives of the profession into the General Medical Council, Wheelhouse headed the poll in England and Wales: was re-elected in 1891, and at the end of his term of office, in 1897, did not seek re-election.

From 1870-1895 he was at first Secretary and afterwards Treasurer of the West Riding Medical Charity, and in 1902 he was presented by his fellow-members with a vote of thanks and a testimonial.

He retired from practice in 1891, settled at Filey, was made a JP for the East Riding of Yorkshire and busied himself in local affairs.

He married in 1860 Agnes Caroline, daughter of the Rev Joseph Cowell, Vicar of Todmorden, and had three daughters. He died at Filey on April 9th, 1909, and was buried there.

Wheelhouse filled the unusual position of a general practitioner who made a name in pure surgery. An admirable teacher, he did much to convert the Leeds Medical School into a worthy integral part of the newly established University. His classical paper, "Perineal Section as performed at Leeds", appeared in the British Medical Journal (1876, i, 779), although as early as 1870 he had drawn attention to it when he published part of a clinical lecture on the subject (Ibid, 1870, i, 125).

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit Med Jour, 1909, i, 983, with a portrait. Dict Nat Biog, Supplement ii, sub nomine et auct ibi cit. Brit Jour Surg, 1924, xii, 209, with an excellent whole-page portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England