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Biographical entry Southam, George (1815 - 1876)

MRCS July 20th 1838; FRCS (by election) Oct 13th 1853; LSA 1836.

3 December 1815
24 April 1876
General surgeon


Born in Manchester on Dec 3rd, 1815; was educated at Manchester Grammar School, and then studied at the Manchester Medical School, at University College, London, and in Paris. He returned to Manchester as House Surgeon to the Salford Royal Infirmary, and subsequently was elected Surgeon to the Dispensary there. He then started to practise as a general surgeon at 23 Lesers Street and at Oakfield, Pendleton, in partnership with Dr Broughton Addy.

He early distinguished himself by following the example of preceding ovariotomists of operating and removing ovarian cysts in private houses - in two cases successfully: "Removal of a Dropsical Ovary" (Lond Med Gaz, 1843, iv, 33); "Removal of an Encysted Tumour of the Left Uterine Appendage" (Prov Med and Surg Jour, 1845, 560). A third case was unsuccessful (Lancet, 1869, ii, 605). He removed a calculus of unusual size from the bladder by rectovesical lithotomy (Med-Chir Trans, 1859, xlii, 427; Lancet, 1859, 239); indeed, he performed lithotomy 120 times with the loss of only one patient.

In 1848 he was elected to the staff of the Manchester Royal Infirmary as one of the Dispensary Surgeons, equivalent to Assistant Surgeon, being elected Surgeon in 1855. In addition to his busy practice Southam also taught anatomy and surgery, and played a leading part in organizing and developing the Medical School. From 1824 a School of Medicine had existed in Pine Street, Manchester, and, especially through the exertions of Thomas Turner (qv), this had been carried on until 1850. In that year Southam, aided by enthusiastic friends, started a second Medical School in Chatham Street, Manchester. This second school was such a success as to compel amalgamation, and in 1858 the Pine Street and Chatham Street Schools were combined as the Manchester Royal School of Medicine. This in its turn in 1872, following examples in Scotland, and in University and King's Colleges, London, amalgamated with Owens College. Southam, jointly with Edward Lund (qv), became Professor of Surgery, and he also took on the duty of Director of Medical Studies. The present Medical School buildings owe much to Southam's unwearying exertions.

He was elected FRCS in 1853, and in 1873, on a requisition signed by 143 Fellows, he became a candidate for a seat on the Council in succession to Thomas Turner (qv), who had sat from 1865-1873. He was elected, and sat for the three years (1873-1876) until his death. During the same three years Southam was President of the Council of the British Medical Association, and but for illness would have been nominated for election as President of the Association at the Annual Meeting which was intended to be held at Manchester in 1876.

During the winter of 1874-1875 his practice became more onerous, and he was advised to take a holiday, for he had suffered attacks of angina pectoris. A long and painful illness followed, during which he was comforted by the visits of his friend Gibson, and he died on April 24th, 1876.

Southam married in 1842 Rebecca, daughter of Sir Elkanah Armitage. She died, leaving him four daughters and two sons; the younger, F A Southam (qv), followed his father as Surgeon to the Manchester Royal Infirmary

The obituary notice in the Lancet describes George Southam as plain of speech, with small literary culture and polish, and without conspicuous gifts either intellectual or oratorical. Yet he was clear, self-possessed, distinct of purpose, and kind-hearted. As a surgeon he was unquestionably a most capable man, and a thoroughly skilful and successful operator.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1876, i, 724. Proc Roy Med-Chir Soc, 1877, viii, 174].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England