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Biographical entry Masterman, Ernest William Gurney (1867 - 1943)

MRCS 12 February 1891; FRCS 14 January 1892; LRCP 1891; DPH Cambridge 1899; MD Durham 1909.

2 January 1867
Rotherfield Hall, Sussex
29 March 1943
Missionary surgeon


Born on 2 January 1867 at Rotherfield Hall, Sussex, the eldest of the four sons of Thomas William Masterman of Tunbridge Wells and Margaret Hanson Gurney, his wife, daughter of Thomas Gurney of New Park Lodge, Brixton Hill.

His brothers all distinguished themselves: John Howard Bertram Masterman (1867-1933) became professor of history at Birmingham University, 1902-09, and Suffragan Bishop of Plymouth, 1922-33; Arthur Thomas Masterman (?1868-1941), superintending inspector of fisheries at the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, 1910-20, was elected FRS in 1915 (Nature, 1941, 147, 408); and the youngest brother, Charles Frederick Gurney Masterman (1874-1927), Liberal MP, author and journalist, became Financial Secretary to the Treasury in Asquith's government in 1912; he had been largely responsible for the success of the National Health Insurance scheme of 1911, while Under-Secretary at the Local Government Board (see DNB).

E W G Masterman was educated at Monkton Combe School and at Clifton College. He early decided to become a medical missionary, and entered the Medical School of Edinburgh University in 1884. While there he heard the African missionary C T Studd, who whetted his enthusiasm. Private circumstances compelled him to earn his living for a short time as a schoolmaster, but in 1887 he was able to enter St Bar¬tholomew's Hospital, where he won the Brackenbury surgical scholarship in 1891, the year of his qualification, and was also Skynner scholar and Lawrence scholar in 1892. He served as house surgeon at St Bartholomew's and also at the Belgrave Hospital for Children, and took the Fellowship on 14 January 1892.

Contact with Percy d'Erf Wheeler led to his appointment as assistant medical officer to the Jerusalem Hospital of the Church Mission to the Jews in 1892. He served in Palestine and Syria for more than twenty years: at Jerusalem, Safed, Damascus, and again in Jerusalem, till the war of 1914 compelled his return to England. He had become an excellent Arabic scholar and was much interested in archaeology, serving for many years as secretary to the Palestine Exploration Fund. In fact he had identified himself closely with the life of Palestine, and he returned to work there at the end of his life. He published an illustrated account of the Jerusalem Hospital in The Lancet, 1918, 1, 305. He had taken the Cambridge Diploma of Public Health in 1899 and was admitted MD of the University of Durham in 1909.

After his return to England he began, at the age of forty-nine, a new medical career into which he threw himself with characteristic energy. In 1916 he took charge of the London County Council's St Giles' Hospital at Camberwell and remained there for eighteen years, retiring in 1934. He brought the hospital to a high state of efficiency and also took an intimate part in the lives and welfare of his poorer neighbours. He also looked after the Guardians' Institution at Gordon Road, Camberwell and their "scattered homes" for destitute children. He was particularly interested in the progress of the ante- and post-natal clinics of the maternity unit at St Giles'.

During his London years he took an active part in the work of the British Medical Association and attended each annual Representative meeting from 1920 to 1934. He served on the central council in 1931 and was chairman of the Camberwell division 1928-29 and of the Metropolitan branch 1934-35. He also served on the public health and hospitals committees of the council and on several special committees, notably that concerned with conditions in the Indian Medical Service.

When he retired from the LCC service at the age of sixty-seven he went back to Palestine and gave his services under the Church Missionary Society wherever needed, taking charge of the hospitals at Gaza and Hebron and at Es Salt in Transjordan. In 1938, aged 71, he became medical superintendent of the 60th General Hospital, the former German Deaconesses' Hospital, until its evacuation to India. In 1939 he was appointed medical adviser for the Near East to the Church Missionary Society. He was chairman of the Lebanon Hospital for Mental Diseases at Asfuriyeh, and though in failing health visited it in July 1942.

Masterman married (1) in 1894 Lucy, daughter of the Rev John Zeller, Swiss Bishop of Jerusalem. She died in 1908 leaving five daughters, of whom Lucy Margaret Theodora Masterman became MRCS 1924 and was resident medical officer at the Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, in 1943 and an MD London. He married (2) in 1909 his first wife's sister, Joanna, who survived him with a son and a daughter; the son, Ernest Bertram Zeller Masterman, MRCS 1934, MD Cambridge, while serving with the RAMC in West Africa, was on leave in Jerusalem when his father died there on 29 March 1943.


Jerusalem from the point of view of health and disease. Lancet, 1918, 1, 305, with references to his own special reports.
Caesarian section, with E M Moore. LCC Ann Rep, vol 4, Public health, part 3 Medical supp 1931, pp 108-117.
Hour-glass stomach. Ibid. 1932, pp 117-122.
Perforated peptic ulcer. Ibid. 1932, pp 123-128.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 1 April 1943, p 7e; Lancet, 1943, 1, 511, eulogy by O W Roberts, FRCS; Brit med J 1943, 1, 493; information given by his daughter, Miss L M T Masterman, MD MRCS].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England