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Biographical entry Collins, Sir William Henry (1873 - 1947)

KB 1944; Hon FRCS 13 December 1945.

30 November 1947


Sir William Henry Collins was the most munificent benefactor in the history of the College, his gifts for the endowment of the scientific departments being comparable to, but surpassing, the great donations of Sir Erasmus Wilson and Sir Buckston Browne. He gave £100,000 to endow the professorship of human and comparative pathology in 1943, and a similar endowment for the professorship of human and comparative anatomy in 1945, and in 1946 a third hundred thousand for the general endowment of the scientific departments; both the professorships were named after him. He was awarded the Honorary Medal in 1944 for his services to the advancement of surgery, and was elected an Honorary Fellow in 1945.

Collins made his fortune chiefly in the Cerebos Salt Company, which he joined as a young man, and became its managing director in 1916. He was also associated with other large companies, including Fortnum and Mason, Crosse and Blackwell, and Carreras. During a severe illness his life was saved by three successful surgical operations, and he determined as far as possible to devote his wealth to promoting the welfare of the sick. He gave £25,000 to the Middlesex Hospital in 1933 to provide an X-ray diagnosis department, which was called after him. He was elected a governor and later a vice-president of the hospital. He was also closely associated with the King Edward VII Hospital at Windsor, of which he became chairman. He gave £20,000 to rebuild the out-patients department, provided new boilers for the hospital at a cost of £10,000 in 1942, and in 1938 after his appointment as chairman he made a New Year gift of £10,000 in the hope of setting an example to others according to their means. His gifts to the College are detailed above. He was knighted in 1944 at the birthday honours.

Collins was a tall, thin man; there is a bronze bust of him by Epstein at the College and another at the Middlesex Hospital, and several photographs in the College's collection. His first wife died before him; he married secondly in 1946 Mrs Norah Royce-Callingham, who survived him; there were no children. Collins died on 30 November 1947, aged 74, at Wexham Park, Slough, and was buried at Bishops Sutton, Alresford, Hampshire.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 1 December 1947, p 7e; Brit med J 1947, 2, 935].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England