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Biographical entry Silcock, Arthur Quarry (1855 - 1904)

MRCS Jan 22nd 1878; FRCS June 8th 1882; BS Lond 1878; MD 1880.

Chippenham, Wiltshire
19 December 1904
Ophthalmic surgeon


Born at Chippenham, Wilts. His father, an engineer, died while his son was very young, and his mother, after residing for a short time in Bath, went to London with her only child, who was devoted to her throughout his life. After being privately educated, Silcock entered the Medical Department of University College in 1873. Here he was greatly influenced by Jenner and his career was one of success. He held all the junior posts, having been House Physician, House Surgeon, and Surgical Registrar. Later he was appointed Senior Demonstrator of Anatomy and Demonstrator of Practical Surgery. In 1883 or 1884, foreseeing that promotion on the staff would be long in coming, he accepted the appointment of Pathologist at St Mary's Hospital and became Lecturer on Pathology in 1884, holding that post till 1897, when he undertook the instruction in operative surgery. In 1886 he had been elected Surgeon in Charge of Out-patients, and in May, 1902, succeeded Edmund Owen (qv) as one of the full Surgeons on the staff. In 1900 he was appointed joint Lecturer on the Principles and Practice of Surgery, and held this post till his death.

He had early begun to devote himself to ophthalmology, and worked regularly as Clinical Assistant at Moorfields, where he was appointed Assistant Surgeon in the same week in 1886 in which he was promoted to the staff of St Mary's. He became full Surgeon at the Royal Ophthalmic Hospital on the resignation of J F Streatfield. He was the only Surgeon on the staff at Moorfields who was also Surgeon at a General Hospital and Medical School, and his wide knowledge of general medicine and surgery contributed to his success in ophthalmic work. He was a skilful operator and spared no pains in the investigation of any obscure case of eye disease. His opinion and advice were widely sought and appreciated.

He was one of the original members of the Ophthalmological Society, was for a time its Hon Secretary, and made valuable contributions to its Transactions. At St Mary's Hospital his marked personality, industry, and sound surgical knowledge made him one of the strongest members of the staff. He was full of energy, and so alert that, superficially, his manner might suggest restlessness or even brusqueness.

Whether in general surgery or in ophthalmic surgery, or as a teacher, his accurate knowledge of pathology, to which in his early years he had devoted much time, enabled him to justify a diagnosis or to explain a physical sign when his accuracy had appeared to depend upon empiricism. This knowledge of pathology gave an impressive solidity to his judgement, so that his opinion carried with it a conviction that no mere surface view of the problem would satisfy him, but that he must penetrate to the real meaning of things. The conviction was a sound one, and this thoroughness made Silcock very valuable in consultation both to the patient and the practitioner, and accounted for the high position that he always held in the opinion of his house surgeons.

In private life Silcock was a man of much charm; a 'hungry reader', and an excellent pianist. He lived quietly and studiously with his family, spending his holidays with them in remote seaside villages.

At the time of his death he held, in addition to his other appointments, those of Hon Ophthalmic Surgeon to the Royal Normal College for the Blind, to the Cripples' Home, and to the Indigent Blind Visiting Society. He was also Consulting Surgeon to the Bromley Cottage Hospital. He had at one time been Clinical Assistant at the Children's Hospital, Great Ormond Street. In 1904 he was elected a Member of the Court of Examiners in Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

He died after an operation for appendicitis at his residence, 52 Harley Street, on Dec 19th, 1904, and his body was cremated. He was survived by his widow and two young sons. Mrs Silcock, whom he had married in 1889, was Emmeline, daughter of Mr Henry Vernon Chichester.

"Injuries of the Eye." in Druitt's Vade Mecum, 12th ed, 1887.
"Parasiticism by Psorospermiae."- Trans Pathol Soc Lond, 1890, xli, 320.
"Case of Acromegaly."- Trans Clin Soc, 1890, xxiii, 256.
"Successful Reduction of Volvulus of the Sigmoid Flexure" (with F L BENHAM).- Ibid, 1895, xxviii, 180.
"Perforating Gastric Ulcer."- Ibid, 213.
"Case of Ileoaecal Intussusception - Excision - Recovery" (with D B LEES). - Ibid, 1898, xxxi, 222.
"Hyperostosis of Frontal Bones and Walls of Orbit." - Ibid, 1890, xxiii, 266.
"Radical Cure of Hernia."- Clinical Jour, 1893, ii, 42.
"Herpes Ophthalmicus," Ibid, 1894, iv, 245.
"Empyema of Frontal Sinuses." - Ibid, 358.
"Distension by Mucus and Empyema of Frontal Sinus."- Practitioner, 1897, 244.

Sources used to compile this entry: [St Mary's Hosp Gaz, 1905, xi, 1, with portrait. Lancet, 1904, ii, 1895; Brit Med Jour, 1904, ii, 1779. Trencher Collins's History and Traditions of the Moorfields Eye Hospital, with portrait facing p.167].

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