Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Burgess, Arthur Henry (1874 - 1948)

MRCS 4 August 1896; FRCS 9 February 1899; BSc Manchester 1892; MSc 1895; MB BCh 1896; Hon LLD Manitoba 1930; FACS 1931; DL Co Lancaster.

2 February 1874
6 May 1948
General surgeon and Urological surgeon


Born at Stretford, near Manchester, on 2 February 1874, the second child and eldest son of John Henry Burgess, a merchant, and his wife, nee Sharrocks. He was educated at Rose Hill School, Bowden, Cheshire and, after a year in a shipping office, at Owens College, Manchester, where he won the Dalton natural history prize and graduated in zoology in 1892. In the medical school he was Dauntesey scholar 1892, junior Platt physiology exhibitioner 1893 and senior 1894, university scholar 1894, Turner scholar and Dumville surgical prizeman 1896. He had taken the MSc in physiology in 1895 and qualified in medicine and surgery in 1896, taking the Conjoint examination the same year, which was his only divagation from a wholly Manchester education.

He was appointed resident surgical officer at Manchester Royal Infirmary, took the Fellowship in 1899, and became assistant surgeon to the infirmary in 1905. He was promoted surgeon in 1910, and consulting surgeon in 1934. He was surgeon to the Manchester Children's Hospital, Pendlebury, and the Manchester Union Hospital, Crumpsall, at both of which he had held resident posts, and to the Christie Cancer Hospital. As lecturer on surgery in the Victoria University, he was remarkable for his careful and detailed teaching, and he was elected professor of clinical surgery in 1921. Burgess joined the territorial RAMC on its formation in 1908. During the war of 1914-18 he was consulting surgeon to the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force, and in charge of No 33 General Hospital, having previously been surgeon to the officers' section of the 2nd Western General Hospital, Manchester. He was consultant in surgery to the Ministry of Health emergency medical service in the war of 1939-45.

At the College he was a member of Council from 1925, a vice-president in 1934-36, Bradshaw lecturer 1933, and Hunterian orator 1941. Owing to the bomb damage to the College house, his oration was delivered in the rooms of the Royal Society of Medicine. He was president of the British Medical Association when it met at Manchester in 1929, and of the Association of Surgeons in 1933. He was elected an honorary Doctor of Manitoba University as immediate past president of the BMA at the Winnipeg meeting in 1930, and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons when he delivered the J B Murphy oration at Chicago in 1931. Burgess was technically a supreme general surgeon. As a young man he set out to achieve complete efficiency, and was never content without the greatest care in preparation and all other details. He achieved safety and. ease in all kinds of abdominal operations. Urology was always a main interest, but he also undertook thyroid surgery, and was an early practitioner of spinal analgesia and of electro-surgery. He always took advantage of whatever any of the ancillary sciences could provide to help, the surgeon.

Burgess married in 1901 Elspeth, second daughter of Thomas Robinson of Leek, Staffordshire. Mrs Burgess died on 31 August 1941. Burgess died suddenly at Edinburgh, where he had gone to attend the annual meeting of the Association of Surgeons, on 6 May 1948, aged 74. He was survived by four sons and a daughter. He had lived at Ashlea, Cheadle, Cheshire, and practised at 17 St John Street, Manchester. Burgess was a tall, very upright, good-looking man, somewhat stiff in manner but essentially friendly and hospitable. He was a sound musician and took an active interest in the Manchester College of Music. He had travelled widely, and often took his holidays in Ireland, where he claimed to have visited every county.

500 consecutive cases of acute appendicitis. Brit med J. 1912, 1, 415.
The debt of surgery to the ancillary sciences (presidential address BMA). Brit med J. 1929, 2, 131.
Electrosurgery (Bradshaw lecture RCS 1933). Lancet, 1933, 2, 1355 and 1411. Charles White (Hunterian oration RCS 1941). Lancet, 1941, 1, 235.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 8 May 1948, p 6e; Brit med J. 1948, 1, 956, with portrait and appreciation by R L Newell, FRCS, p 1007, appreciation by John Morley, FRCS, p 1054, appreciation by Geoffrey Jefferson, FRCS, Ibid. 1948, 2, 406, will; Lancet, 1948, 1, 773, with portrait and appreciation by E D T; Brit J Surg. 1948, 36, 104, with portrait; information from his son, John C Burgess, MA, FCA; personal knowledge].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England