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Biographical entry Swan, Russell Henry Jocelyn (1876 - 1943)

OBE 1919; MRCS and FRCS 11 December 1902; MB BS London 1898; MS 1902.

20 July 1876
Gosberton, Lincolnshire
2 March 1943
General surgeon and Genito-urological surgeon


Born 20 July 1876 at Gosberton, Lincs, the second son of Richard Jocelyn Swan (1849-1925), MRCS 1870 (see Lancet, 1925, 2, 1257), and his wife Ana Elizabeth, elder daughter of Robert Russell Harper, MRCS 1875, of Holbeach, Lincs. R J Swan was the second son of John W Swan, MRCS 1835, of Ballyragget, Co Kilkenny; he practised till 1879 at Northleach, Glos, then for six years at Gosberton, and at Camberwell from 1885 till his death in 1925; his brother, Robert Lafayette Swan, was president of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, 1899. Both the Swans and the Harpers had many medical forbears.

R H J Swan was educated at Wilson's School and Guy's Hospital Medical School, where he was demonstrator of anatomy and of biology. He took first-class honours in medicine at the London MB examination when only twenty-two, and served as house surgeon and obstetric registrar at Guy's. He played Rugby football for the Hospital, and was an elusive half-back. He then served as house surgeon at St Peter's Hospital for Stone, where he acquired the interest in genito-urinary surgery which coloured his whole career. In 1902 he took the London MS and the Fellowship, though not previously a Member of the College. He was elected to the staff of the Royal Cancer Hospital, Fulham Road, where he served successively as surgical registrar, assistant surgeon, surgeon, and finally surgeon emeritus. He became also consulting surgeon to St Paul's Hospital for Genito-urinary Diseases, to the Walton Cottage Hospital, and to the Watford Peace Memorial Hospital, and he served on the grand council of the British Empire Cancer Campaign.

During the first world war Swan was commissioned a temporary major, RAMC on 1 February 1917, and served as district consulting surgeon in the Eastern Command. He was surgeon to the Royal Herbert Hospital at Woolwich and to the American Red Cross Hospital for Officers, and later surgeon to the RAF hospitals. He was mentioned in despatches and created OBE for his services. At the outbreak of the second war in 1939 he gave up his large private practice and became divisional surgeon in the emergency medical service at Park Prewett, Basingstoke, where he carried on his duty even when his health began finally to fail.

Swan was an excellent all-round surgeon, whose main interests were in cancer and genito-urinary diseases. He was also specially interested in the surgery of peripheral nerve injuries. His operations on the breast were models of technique, for he was a fine operator, careful and thorough, of sound judgement and calm decision. He served on the editorial board of the British Journal of Urology, and was president of the section of urology at the Royal Society of Medicine. He was also a member of the Société internationale d'Urologie. In 1917 he operated successfully upon the King's aunt, HRH the Duchess of Albany.

Swan married twice: (1) in 1908 Una Gladys, daughter of A Waterlow; she died in 1924 of an obscure malignant disease, leaving a son and three daughters; (2) in 1927 Joyce Hazel, younger daughter of H M Thornton of Purley. Mrs Swan was taken severely ill on their honeymoon and was paralysed for some months; she recovered and survived him, but without children. Swan died in London on 2 March 1943, aged 66. He had practised at 75 Wimpole Street. A memorial service was held at the Royal Cancer Hospital on 9 March. He was a man of great charm, gentle, and considerate. He was a good player of golf and lawn-tennis. Swan had travelled much and took cinematograph films of the places he visited. He was a good raconteur, and also made a valuable collection of postage stamps.

Genito-urinary diseases, in French's Index of differential diagnosis, Bristol, 1911. Primary unilateral renal tuberculosis. Guy's Hosp Rep 1910, 64, 39.
Some reflections upon villous-covered tumours of the urinary bladder. Proc Roy Soc Med 1925-26, 19, urol p 1.
New growths of the kidney. Brit med J 1933, 1, 606.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 6 March 1943, p 7e; Brit med J 1943, 1, 335; Lancet, 1943, 1, 384; information given by his sister, Mrs Edith Fawcett].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England