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Biographical entry Sprigge, Sir Samuel Squire (1860 - 1937)

KB 1921; MRCS 27 April 1886; FRCS by election 14 April 1921; FACS 1928; FRCP 1927; BA Cambridge 1882; MB BCh 1887; MA and MD 1904.

22 June 1860
Thetford, Norfolk
17 June 1937


Born at Watton, Thetford, Norfolk on 22 June 1860, the eldest son of Squire Sprigge (d 1877), MRCS 1846, LSA 1847, and Elizabeth, daughter of John Jackson, solicitor, who practised at Dutton Hill and Bury St Edmunds. His father had been educated at the London Hospital and was district medical officer to the Wayland Union. Squire Sprigge had his early schooling under the Rev J R Pilling at East Dereham, and entered Uppingham in August 1873 when Edward Thring was headmaster. He left in July 1878 and matriculated from Caius College, Cambridge on 1 October 1878, taking a "poll" degree in 1882. He received his medical education at St George's Hospital, where he dressed for Timothy Holmes, and after qualifying held resident posts at the West London and the Brompton Hospitals.

He was attracted for a time to literature, wrote some short stories, became associated with Sir Walter Besant, and was secretary to the newly founded Society of Authors, of which he was president in 1911. With Sir Walter Besant he represented the Society at the Chicago Exhibition in 1893. During this period he acted as secretary to Sir Russell Reynolds, afterwards president of the Royal College of Physicians. Sprigge's connexion with The Lancet began in 1903, and after a short period of probation he was appointed sub-editor of the journal. Dr Thomas Wakley, junior, the grandson of the founder of the paper, died in 1909, and Sprigge then became editor, a position he held with distinction until his death in 1937.

He married twice: (1) in 1895 Beatrice, daughter of Sir Charles Moss, Chief Justice of Ontario; she died in 1903 leaving him with two children: Cecil Sprigge, financial editor of the Manchester Guardian, and Mrs Mark Napier (Elizabeth Sprigge, the novelist); (2) in 1905 Ethel Courselles, daughter of Major Charles Jones; she survived him with a daughter. He died of a pulmonary embolism on 17 June 1937.

Sir Squire Sprigge did much to improve the position of medical journalism by a succession of small and unobtrusive changes in The Lancet, which made it acceptable as an organ of the profession and agreeable to the reader who had no special knowledge. He was the embodiment of sound common sense, shrewdness, and tolerance. He wrote once to an assistant: "You are too outspoken, bounders do not always bound, boasters do not always lie, and third-rate persons sometimes produce second-rate stuff." Throughout his editorship he was keenly alive to the great advances which were being made in every branch of medicine, and was interested in the education of the student and in the welfare of his teachers. During the war he did much good, in 1914, as secretary of the Belgian Doctors' and Pharmacists' Relief Fund. In 1928 he went to the United States and delivered a Hunterian lecture before the American College of Surgeons. He was rewarded with the honorary Fellowship of the College and took the opportunity of visiting some of the American and Canadian universities. This oration was his only signed contribution to The Lancet, except for articles in December 1936 under the heading of "Grains and scruples by a Chronicler", his name as author of these being given in the half-yearly index.

Methods of publishing: the cost of production. London, 1890; 2nd edition, 1892.
The life and times of Thomas Wakley. London, 1897; re-issued 1899.
Odd issues. London, 1899.
Editor of Autobiography of Sir Walter Besant. London, 1902.
An industrious Chevalier. London, 1902; new edition, 1931.
Medicine and the public. London, 1905.
Some considerations of medical education. London, 1910.
Physic and fiction. London, 1921.
Editor of The conduct of medical practice. London, 1927.
Grand curiosity as exemplified in the life of John Hunter, Hunterian lecture before the American College of Surgeons, Boston, October 1928. Surg Gynec Obstet 1928, 47, 877, and Lancet, 1928, 2, 739.
Grains and scruples by a Chronicler. Lancet, 1936, 2, 1358-60, 1422-24, 1485-87, 1542-44.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 18 June 1937, p l la, with portrait, and 21 June, p 19f; Lancet, 1937, 1, 1550-58, with full page portrait, a good likeness, and 1937, 2, 39; Brit med J 1937, 1, 1346-48, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England