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Biographical entry Sargent, Sir Percy William George (1873 - 1933)

KB 1928: CMG 1919; DSO 1917; MRCS 4 May 1898; FRCS 13 December 1900; LRCP 1898; MA MB MCh Cambridge 1898.

8 May 1873
22 January 1933
General surgeon and Neurosurgeon


Born at Chester on 8 May 1873, the second child and eldest son of Edward George Sargent, a bank manager, and Emily Grose, his wife. His brothers were Dr Eric Sargent, the Rev D H G. Sargent (who died 19 July 1935), and the Rev E H Gladstone Sargent, and he had four sisters. He was educated at Clifton College and at St John's College, Cambridge. In 1895 he competed for the University entrance scholarships at St Mary's Hospital and at St Thomas's, and having been elected to both he chose to go to St Thomas's Hospital. Here he acted as house surgeon to William Anderson in 1899, was elected surgical registrar in 1901, resident assistant surgeon in 1903, assistant surgeon in succession to F C Abbott and demonstrator of anatomy in 1905, surgeon and lecturer on surgery in 1916, and part-time, unpaid director of the surgical unit in 1930. In 1905 he was appointed assistant surgeon at the Victoria Hospital for Children, Tite Street, Chelsea, becoming surgeon in the following year. On 15 May 1906 he was elected assistant surgeon to the National Hospital, Queen Square, for the Relief and Cure of Diseases of the Nervous System including Paralysis and Epilepsy, where he became surgeon on 19 January 1909.

From 30 March 1912 he held a commission as medical officer in the First County of London Middlesex Yeomanry (T) and on the outbreak of the war he was gazetted captain, RAMC (T), and went to France. His services as a specialist were quickly recognized, and with Dr Gordon Holmes he was employed, with the rank of temporary honorary lieutenant-colonel from 13 December 1914, to form a small neurological unit, whose aid could be invoked in difficult cases throughout the whole British Expeditionary Force in France. The work they did was not only invaluable to their colleagues but materially advanced knowledge about the localization of function in certain areas of the brain. He took charge at a later period of a department established for the treatment of those still suffering from remote injuries of the nervous system, and rendered much assistance to the Ministry of Pensions. For his services he was rewarded with the DSO in 1917 and with the CMG in 1919, and was created a Knight Bachelor in 1928.

At the Royal College of Surgeons he delivered the Erasmus Wilson lecture in 1905 taking as his subject "Peritonitis, a bacteriological study", and in 1928 he acted as Hunterian professor of surgery and pathology, when he lectured on the "Surgery of the posterior cerebral fossa". In 1923 he was elected a member of Council, and at the time of his death he was acting as junior vice-president. He married in 1907 Mary Louise (d 1932), daughter of Sir Herbert Ashman, Bt, the first Lord Mayor of Bristol, who had received the honour of knighthood on the steps of the Council House when Queen Victoria visited Bristol on 15 November 1899. He died in London after an acute attack of influenza on 22 January 1933 survived by his father, two sons and a daughter, and was buried at Redland Green cemetery, Bristol.

As a surgeon, Sargent operated with great dexterity, rapidity, and gentleness. His operations were models of skill and almost perfect restraint. He did not restrict himself to the surgery of the brain, but throughout his professional life he performed his duties at St Thomas's Hospital as a general surgeon. As a teacher he was brilliant, and made his rounds in the wards so interesting and amusing that one of his pupils described them as being a succession of social gatherings.

As a man he was slightly above middle height with a well modelled figure and keen intellectual features, soft voiced and somewhat caustic in speech, though his remarks were always tempered with a pleasant and disarming smile. He was possessed of a strong vein of benevolence and charity, which was perhaps inherited, for two of his brothers were ordained in the Church of England, to which he himself, though born a nonconformist, was admitted late in life. His father was well known for half a century in the religious life of Bristol, and Percy Sargent was interested in the welfare of children from an early period in his career and did much work for the Children's Invalid Aid Society, where he succeeded Sir D'Arcy Power as chairman of the Battersea branch. Later in life he was the active and useful secretary of the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund. Early initiated in the Cheselden lodge, he made rapid progress in masonry, took high rank in many of its branches and was appointed a senior grand deacon in the United Grand Lodge of England in 1915. Lionel Horton- Smith published two copies of Latin verses addressed to him, one a birthday greeting on his coming of age, the other a mock elegy upon him as slain in a combat of wit.

The bacteriology of peritonitis, with L S Dudgeon. London, 1905.
Surgical emergencies. London, 1907.
Emergencies in general practice, with A E Russell. London, 1910.
Closure of cavities in bone. J Roy Army med Cps, 1919, 32, 83.
Diseases of the appendix. Choyce's System of surgery, 1912; 2nd edition, 1923. Haemangiomatous cysts of the cerebellum, with J Godwin Greenfield. Brit J Surg 1929-30, 17, 84.
Treatment of gliomata and pituitary tumours with radium, with Stanford Cade. Ibid 1930-31, 18, 501.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 23 January 1933, p 14e, and 25th, p 12d and e; Lancet, 1933, 1, 226, with portrait; Brit J Surg 1932-33, 20, 540, with portrait, a good likeness; personal knowledge; information given by his daughter, Mrs Kemp, Dr R J C Thompson, and Godfrey H Hamilton].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England