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Biographical entry Gemmill, William (1880 - 1946)

MRCS and FRCS 12 June 1913; MA Edinburgh 1901; MB ChB Edinburgh 1905; ChM Birmingham 1933.

11 October 1880
Kilmarnock, Ayrshire
28 July 1946
General surgeon


Born 11 October 1880 at Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland, the elder of the two sons of Hugh Gemmill, ironmonger, and his wife, née Collins. He was educated at Speirs School, Beith, Ayrshire, and at Edinburgh University, where he graduated in arts before completing his medical training. He qualified at Edinburgh in 1905, but continued his professional education for nine years longer and finally took the English Fellowship, in 1913, though not previously a Member of the College. During the first world war Gemmill served as officer in charge of the surgical division of a general hospital in France; he had been commissioned captain in the RAMC on 10 November 1916. Here he became interested in the surgery of injuries of the nervous system.

In 1920 he was elected assistant surgeon at Queen's Hospital, Birmingham, and in due course became surgeon. In 1932 he was elected professor of surgery in the University of Birmingham, in succession to William Billington and jointly with Seymour Barling, FRCS, surgeon to the General Hospital, which soon after joined the Queen's Hospital to form the United Hospital. Gemmill was president of the Birmingham branch of the British Medical Association from 1938 to 1943.

He married in 1915 Janet Macpherson, who survived him with a son and two daughters. He practised at 48 Calthorpe Road, Birmingham and lived at 27 Woodbourne Road, Edgbaston, where he died, almost immediately after retiring from his University and Hospital posts, 28 July 1946 aged 65. Gemmill was an excellent general surgeon, with a special interest in neurosurgery; he was a good bedside teacher. He had no interests outside his profession, except a perennial love of early haunts in Scotland, where he took his annual holiday. He was man of strong character and great kindliness, but reserved and shy.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1946, 2, 247, by Seymour G Barling, CMG FRCS; 1946, 2, 218, by the same; information from Mrs Gemmill].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England