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Biographical entry Griffin, William Watson (1869 - 1937)

MRCS 15 November 1893; FRCS 11 October 1894; MB BCh New Zealand 1891; LRCP 1893.

7 October 1869
Timaru, South Canterbury, New Zealand
26 December 1937
Ophthalmic surgeon


Born 7 October 1869 at Timaru, South Canterbury, New Zealand, the fourth child and second son of Samuel Stewart Griffin and Catherine Finegan, his wife. His father, born in Canada, was medical man, clergyman, politician, and pioneer settler. He was educated at Christ's College, Christchurch, where he did brilliantly gaining five first class prizes in 1885, the first Tancred prize for English history in 1887, and the senior Somes scholarship. He entered the Otago University in 1888 and graduated MB BCh in 1891, after winning a special prize given for proficiency in diseases of the eye and ear. In 1892 he served as the first junior resident surgeon at the Dunedin Hospital, and at the end of: term of office sailed for England in the s s Fifeshire to continue his medical studies in London. During the voyage the Fifeshire rescued the crew of the barque Corinth, which had taken fire whilst sailing from Tasmania.

In London he acted as clinical assistant to Edward Nettleship at the Ophthalmic Hospital, Moorfields, and to William Lang at the Middlesex Hospital, and attended the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases at Queen Square, Bloomsbury. In 1894 he was admitted Fellow, and it was noted with pride by the University of Otago that he was the first to obtain the distinction in so short a time after leaving New Zealand. By the advice of Lang and other friends he then determined to settle in England and devote himself to ophthalmology. He therefore went to Brighton, where he was elected ophthalmic surgeon to the Royal Sussex County Hospital on 12 June 1901 and to the Worthing Hospital, acquired a good practice, and was a vice-president of the ophthalmic section when the British Medical Association met in the town in 1913.

On 27 April 1908 he joined the newly formed Territorial Army with the rank of major, RAMC; in 1914 he was called up and was attached to the Second Eastern General Hospital, where he served throughout the war as the eye specialist. After demobilization in 1919 the health of his wife compelled him to live abroad, so that he resigned his posts at Brighton; on his return to England he practised at Margate. He married in 1895 Annie Hamilton Dinwiddie, the second daughter of General Dinwiddie, who survived him until 14 January 1938 when she died at the age of 91, without issue. Griffin died suddenly at Margate 26 December 1937, aged 68. He was remembered as a man of delightful personality and as a colleague whose opinions could always be relied upon.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1938, 1, 151; information given by his sister, Mrs Hastings of Christchurch, New Zealand].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England