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Biographical entry Smith, Henry Spencer (1812 - 1901)

MRCS March 31st 1837; FRCS Dec 11th, 1843. He died the last survivor of the original 300 Fellows.

12 September 1812
29 October 1901
General surgeon


Born in London on Sept 12th, 1812, the younger son of George Spencer Smith, an estate agent, by Martha, his wife. He was educated at Enfield, and entered St Bartholomew's Hospital in 1832 as an apprentice of Frederic Carpenter Skey (qv), with whom he lived and whose House Surgeon he afterwards became.

He went to Paris in 1837, and after studying medicine there for six months proceeded to Berlin, where he lived from 1839-1841. He was appointed Surgeon to the Royal General Dispensary in Aldersgate Street on his return to England, and in August, 1851, he began to lecture on Surgery at the School of Anatomy and Medicine adjoining St George's Hospital ('Lane's School'). When St Mary's Hospital was founded in 1851 Spencer Smith became the Senior Assistant Surgeon, and on July 3rd, 1854, when Lane's School was wound up, he was chosen Dean of St Mary's School and held the post until 1860, lecturing also on systematic surgery. He received, both from colleagues and students, valuable testimonials of their regard when he resigned his offices. He was also Surgeon to the Sea-bathing Hospital at Margate. At the Royal College of Surgeons he was a Member of the Council from 1867-1875 and of the Court of Examiners from 1872-1877. He was a Secretary of the Royal Medico-Chirurgical Society of London from 1855-1858.

Caring little for private practice, Spencer Smith devoted both time and thought to the welfare of the newly founded St Mary's Hospital and Medical School. His library, rich in the medical works of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as well as in editions of Thomas à Kempis and Walton's Angler, was sold at Sotheby's on Nov 14th, 15th, and 16th, 1878, and on June 17th and 18th, 1897.

He married: (1) Elizabeth Mortlock, daughter of John Sturges; and (2) Louisa Theophila, daughter of the Rev Gibson Lucas, and left a son in the IMS and a daughter. He died at his house, 92 Oxford Terrace, W, on Oct 29th, 1901. There is a good portrait in St Mary's Hospital Gazette, and there is also a photograph in the College Collection.


Spencer Smith translated from the German, for the Sydenham Society, Dr H Schwann's Microscopical Researches into the Accordance in the Structure and Growth of Animals and Plants (1847), and Dr M J Schleiden's Contributions to Phytogenesis, the two treatises being issued together in a single volume. Both translations gave an impetus in this country to the microscopic study of the tissues.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Dict Nat Biog, Supplement ii, sub nomine et auct ibi cit. St Mary's Hosp Gaz, 1901, vii, 154,157, Supplement, with the portrait mentioned above. R R James's The School of Anatomy and Medicine adjoining St George's Hospital, 1928, 59, 61. Lancet, 1901, ii, 1383].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England