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Biographical entry May, Bennett (1864 - 1937)

CBE 1919; MRCS 23 January 1868; FRCS 8 June 1876.

Farnham, Surrey
3 May 1937
General surgeon


Born at Farnham, Surrey, the son of Benjamin May, an official of the Inland Revenue. He entered Sydenham College, then attached to the General Hospital, Birmingham, as a medical school in 1864. During 1870-73 he held the post of resident surgical officer, with supervision of all the surgical beds, at the Birmingham General Hospital. He afterwards acted as private assistant to Oliver Pemberton and, after unsuccessfully contesting an election as assistant surgeon to the General Hospital, he was in 1880 elected casualty surgeon to the Queen's Hospital, becoming surgeon in 1881, where he served until 1906 when he resigned and was made consulting surgeon. During the earlier years of this period he taught anatomy in the school attached to the Queen's Hospital. After acting as demonstrator of operative surgery in the Birmingham Medical School he became professor of surgery, 1887-1909, and continued in office when the University of Birmingham was formed. During the war he undertook surgical work at the Rubery War Hospital and did such good service that he was decorated CBE in 1919. He died on 3 May 1937, crippled by rheumatism, without children, and a widower for many years.

May was amongst the first in Birmingham to adopt the principles of Listerian surgery, though he would never admit the microbic origin of suppuration. He was especially interested in the ligature of the large arteries in their continuity and in the surgical treatment of cancer of the breast. As a surgeon he was extraordinarily thorough and painstaking, his colleague at the Queen's Hospital, Jordan Lloyd, being brilliant, original, a rapid diagnostician, and a quick operator. May was a good but not impressive teacher, held in high estimation by his fellow surgeons in Birmingham for his integrity. He was an active member of the British Medical Association, was president of the Birmingham and Midland Counties branch in 1899, was secretary of the section of surgery at the Belfast meeting in 1884, and a vice-president of the same section at the meeting in Birmingham in 1890.


The operative treatment of cancer of the breast, the Ingleby lectures. Brit med J 1897, 1, 1269 and 1335.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet 1937, 1, 1201; Brit med J 1937, 1, 1048; Bgham med Rev 1937, 12, 89; information given by Leonard Gamgee, FRCS].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England