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Biographical entry Henry, Sydney Alexander (1880 - 1960)

MRCS 9 November 1905; FRCS by election 3 April 1952; BA Cambridge 1901; MA 1905; MB BCh 1906; MD 1910; DPH London 1908; LRCP 1905; MRCP 1938; FRCP 1945; DPH Durham 1908; DTM Liverpool 1909.

15 August 1880
12 February 1960
General surgeon, Medical Officer and Occupational physician


Born on 15 August 1880 he was the son of Joseph Henry MD, LRCSI a general practitioner and part-time Medical Officer of Health for Rochdale 1879-1908; from his father he inherited a keen interest in industrial medicine. He was educated at Rossall School, Trinity College, Cambridge and St Thomas's Hospital where he qualified in 1905.

After qualifying Henry spent a few years as an assistant school medical officer under Dr J C Bridge in Breconshire. He then went into general practice in Rochdale, where he also held the post of certifying factory surgeon. From this early experience Henry developed an interest in occupational disease, and he became an authority on the subject from the employers' and employees' point of view. He saw active service in the RAMC in the first world war, was wounded and was made a Chevalier of the Belgian Ordre de la Couronne in 1916.

In 1920 he was appointed one of HM Inspectors of Factories at the Home Office; the fourth to be appointed. He was responsible under Sir Thomas Legge for a wide district in the north of England, and with characteristic verve accepted this challenge. He had a profound knowledge of the conditions in the textile trade, and became secretary to the Departmental Committees on epitheliomatous ulceration among mule-spinners and on dust in cotton cardrooms. He had a great admiration for Sir Thomas Legge and they became close friends.

Henry worked in Manchester from 1920 to 1930; in 1929 he was vice-president of the Section of Occupational Health at the Annual Meeting of the BMA. He was a Hunterian Professor in 1940 and 1950; he and his sister endowed the Joseph Henry lectureship here in 1949 in memory of their father, and in 1952 he was elected FRCS.

He delivered the Milroy lecture at the Royal College of Physicians in 1943, and the Chadwick lecture on "Medical supervision in industry in peace and war" at the Royal Society of Health in 1944. He endowed the Ernestine Henry lectureship at the College of Physicians in 1945 in memory of his mother, and the same year he was elected FRCP.

Henry was a medical inspector of factories for twenty-four years, and became an international authority on industrial health. His special interest was occupational cancer and much of his writing is on this subject. He was a charming, kindly man and a voluble conversationalist. He was a great collector: books, china, paintings, engravings, and anything which threw light on occupational cancer were his special delight. He gave part of his collection to Leeds City Museum, and presented the pathological specimens, which his chief Sir Thomas Legge had given him, to Manchester University.

Henry died at his home, 61 Overstrand Mansions, Battersea Park on 12 February 1960, aged 79.

Select Publications:
Cancer of the scrotum in relation to occupation. 1946.
Occupational cutaneous cancer attributed to certain chemicals in industry. Brit med Bull 1947.
Control and prevention of occupational cancer in Great Britain. Irish J med Sci 1955.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1960, 1, 807, with appreciation by ERAM; Lancet 1960, 1, 555, with portrait and appreciation by AIGMcL].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England