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Biographical entry Pickard, Ransom (1867 - 1953)

CB 1919; CMG 1916; MRCS 12 February 1889; FRCS 9 June 1892; LRCP 1889; MB London 1889; BS 1891; MS 1892; MD DPH 1893.

18 May 1867
9 February 1953
General surgeon and Ophthalmologist


Born in London on 18 May 1867, the fourth child and second son of Zachariah Pickard and his wife née Ransom; his father was head of a family firm of cabinet makers. He was educated at the Cowper Street School and St Bartholomew's Hospital, took first-class honours in forensic medicine and honours in obstetrics at the London MB in 1889, and was awarded the gold medal; he also took first-class honours in surgery at the BS in 1891. He served as ophthalmic house surgeon at St Bartholomew's and clinical assistant at Moorfields, took the Fellowship in 1892, and settled at Exeter in 1893. After a few years in general practice, he began to specialise as a consultant ophthalmologist and became surgeon to the West of England Eye Infirmary, where he was ultimately consulting surgeon. He had the distinction of being the first former member of the medical staff to be elected President of the Infirmary, an office he filled for several years until 1947. Pickard was for many years the leading ophthalmologist in the south-west; he was particularly interested in the treatment of glaucoma and in cases of low tension with disc cup enlargement. He remained a general surgeon and liked aural operations. He was one of the first to undertake ophthalmic trephining, and went to Vienna to study the slit-lamp when it was new. He regularly estimated and drew the size and depth of the cup of each patient, and made a study of cavernous atrophy.

He was active in the Devon and Exeter Medico-Chirurgical Society, joining in discussion of medical and surgical questions. He was secretary of the Section of Ophthalmology when the British Medical Association met at Exeter in 1907, was a Vice-President of the same Section at Portsmouth in 1923, and was a member of the Association's ophthalmic committee. He was President of the Section of Ophthalmology at the Royal Society of Medicine 1934-36. He retired from his hospital appointments in 1932, but retained a large private practice for many years.

In the first world war Pickard served in France with the 1st Wessex Field Ambulance, which he had raised, in the rank of Colonel AMS; subsequently he was Assistant Director of Medical Services with the 48th Division in Italy and was awarded the Croce di Guerra. He was five times mentioned in dispatches and was created CMG in 1916. He worked in Germany after the armistice of November 1918, and was made CB in 1919.

Pickard was a prominent citizen of Exeter: Sheriff in 1906-07 and Mayor in 1926-27. He was a Vice-President of the University College of the South-West and of the Exeter Drama League, and President of the Devonshire Association and the Devonshire Archaeological Exploration Society; he published a monograph on The population and epidemics of Exeter in 1947. He was chairman of the local medical war committee during the second world war, 1939-45.

In early years he had been a keen mountaineer, and belonged to the British and the Swiss Alpine Clubs; later he explored Devonshire and particularly Dartmoor in long Saturday walks, usually accompanied by his wife; he seldom wore an overcoat or waterproof, and never owned a motor-car. He was a life-long non-smoker and teetotaller, and a regular attendant at the Methodist Church on Sunday mornings and evenings, but did not thrust his austere views on others.

Pickard married in 1912 Mabel Lucy daughter of E A Childe, who survived him but without children. He died at Rustholme, Streatham Drive, Exeter on 9 February 1953 aged 85. He had practised formerly at 31 East Southernhay.

Method of recording disc alterations and a study of the growths of normal and abnormal disc cups. Brit J Ophthal 1923, 7, 81.
Cavernous optic atrophy and its relation to glaucoma. Ibid 1925, 9, 385.
A study of the central and peripheral light and dark adaptations with varying backgrounds. Ibid 1935, 19, 481.
Clinical course of cavernous atrophy, and its relation to normal enlargements of optic disc cup. Trans Ophthal Soc UK 1935, 55, 599.
The population and epidemics of Exeter in pre-census times. Exeter, privately printed 1947.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 16 February 1953 p 8 e; Lancet 1953, 1, 400, with eulogy by MDB; Brit J Ophthal 1953, 37, 256; information from Mrs Pickard].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England