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Biographical entry Turner, Sir George Robertson (1855 - 1941)

KBE 1919; CB 1917; MRCS 25 July 1877; FRCS 9 December 1880; LRCP 1878.

22 October 1855
Chigwell, Essex
7 April 1941
General surgeon


Born at Chigwell, Essex on 22 October 1855, younger son of George Turner, MRCS 1845, and Hannah Buchanan, his wife. His father, who was the second of three sons of Edward Turner of Sherborne to qualify as a Member of the College from St George's Hospital, practised at 37 Sussex Gardens, Hyde Park and died in 1882; the elder son, Edward (MRCS 1842) practised at Sherborne and died in 1886, and the younger, Henry (MRCS 1847), who served in the Crimea as assistant surgeon with the Scots Fusilier Guards, was born in 1825 and died in Ireland in 1870. A fourth son, Frederick, became Attorney-General of South Australia. G R Turner's own elder brother, Edward Beadon Turner, FRCS (1854-1931) was also a St George's man, and his elder son, George Frederick, entered St George's Medical School on 2 May 1904, but did not qualify. His sister married James Cossar Ewart, FRS (see the life of G A Ewart, FRCS). G R Turner followed his brother to Uppingham under Edward Thring in 1867, and played in the School Rugby XV. Entering St George's on 1 May 1873, he distinguished himself both at work and play. He won prizes in 1875-76-77 and the William Brown exhibition in 1878. He played Rugby football for the Hospital in 1875 and 1876, for the United Hospitals XV in 1874-75-76, for the South v. North in 1875, and for England in 1876; he also won the Inter-Hospitals hurdles in 1874-75-76, and was second in the quarter-mile in 1876.

Turner qualified in 1877, was house surgeon at St George's in 1878, and surgical registrar and anaesthetist 1880-82. In 1881 he was appointed surgeon to the Seamen's Hospital at Greenwich (the Dreadnought), a post which he held till his election as surgeon to St George's in 1898, having been assistant surgeon since 1887. He retired as consulting surgeon in 1918. In the St George's Medical School he was demonstrator of anatomy 1876-77 and 1879-87, and also lectured on anatomy and surgery. In 1908 he received a commission as major à la suite, in the new RAMC Territorial Force, but on the outbreak of war in 1914 he was appointed a temporary surgeon rear-admiral and served at Chatham and Plymouth and as a consultant at the Admiralty. After the Gallipoli evacuation he went to Malta to bring back a large number of wounded. He was created CB in 1917 and KBE in 1919.

Turner was a vice-president and honorary secretary of the Medical Society of London. He contributed to Heath's Dictionary of Surgery and to Latham and English's System of Treatment, and published lectures on appendicitis, inguinal hernia, and gastric ulcer. After retirement in 1920 he lived at Hove, wrote an autobiography recording his interest in sport and racing, and published a study of Mary, Queen of Scots. He died at 37 Adelaide Crescent, Hove on 7 April 1941, aged 85, and was buried at Sherborne Abbey, Dorset. Turner married on 31 August 1882, Isabel Beatrice, daughter of Frederick A DuCroz of East Grinstead. Lady Turner died in 1926. One of their two sons was killed in the first world war. The eldest of their three daughters married the Hon Sydney Spencer Sawrey-Cookson, Judge of the Supreme Court of The Gambia, and another married her first cousin, George Arthur Ewart, FRCS. Turner was warm-hearted, breezy, and determined. Sir Henry Burdett said of "him: "He knows what he wants and usually gets it." He was a strong conservative and individualist, and said: "Democracy makes little appeal to me; I have dared to live without over-regard for what people think and say of me."

In 1938 the proprietors of the newspaper Cavalcade apologized to Turner in the High Court, for publishing over his name a controversial letter which in fact he had not written.

Clinical lectures on appendicitis, radical cure of inguinal hernia, and perforating gastric ulcer. London, 1905 (partly from Clinical Journal).
Unorthodox reminiscences. London, Murray, 1931, with portraits.
Mary Stuart: forgotten forgeries. 1933.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Turner's Unorthodox reminiscences; The Times, 8 April 1941; Lancet, 1941, 1, 526, with portrait; Brit med J 1941, 1, 610, with portrait; St George's Hospital pupil register, No 5093, and references in R R James's transcript].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England