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Biographical entry Gamgee, Leonard Parker (1868 - 1956)

MRCS 12 February 1891; FRCS 7 July 1893; LRCP 1891; MB ChB Birmingham 1891; ChM 1922.

20 June 1868
1 March 1956
Leamington Spa
General surgeon


He was born at Birmingham on 20 June 1868 son of the surgeon Sampson Gamgee FRSE, whose name was at one time a household word owing to his introduction of "Gamgee tissue" for the dressing of wounds; his father's brother Arthur Gamgee FRS was Professor of Physiology at Manchester. His grandfather Joseph Gamgee was an English veterinary surgeon who practised for some years at Florence and afterwards in London, and became a professor at the New Veterinary College founded by his son John Gamgee at Edinburgh.

Leonard Gamgee made his career in his native town. He was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham, at Queen's College and the Queen's Hospital where he served as house surgeon to Jordan Lloyd, and was obstetric surgeon under Charles Purslow. He was then appointed resident surgical officer at the General Hospital, where he was succeeded by his life-long friend Charles Leedham-Green. The two were complete contrasts: Leedham-Green brilliant and impetuous, Gamgee cautious and thorough; each achieved success and distinction. Gamgee was appointed to the honorary staff of the General Hospital in 1894 as assistant surgeon to William Haslam, and became surgeon in 1915 on the retirement of Sir Gilbert Barling; he was elected a consulting surgeon in 1928. He was also surgeon to the Children's Hospital 1894-1919. Gamgee was influential with his students, who continued to seek his advice in after-life. He was in all things simple and punctual, and was a skilled and gentle operator; but distrusted elaborate innovations, and achieved excellent results through sound judgement and reliance on well-tried procedures. He had a very large private practice at the height of his career. He was elected Professor of Surgery in the University of Birmingham in 1919, and was granted the title of Emeritus when he retired from the chair in 1931. He represented his University on the General Medical Council from 1926 to 1936. At the Royal College of Surgeons he was a member of Council from 1928 till 1935.

Gamgee was of a large and imposing build; strength of physique and character was his great merit. He did not care for games, but was a keen walker. He was much interested in pictures and antique furniture. He practiced at 95 Cornwall Street, Birmingham, but retired in 1941 to 17 Newbold Terrace, Leamington Spa, where he died on 1 March 1956 aged 87. Mrs Gamgee had died nearly thirty years earlier in 1927, but he was survived by his son, who was a barrister, and his daughter, Mrs Boddington.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1956, 1, 632 with portrait and appreciations by HWF and JF Brailsford, and p 866 by WGR Oates, with a correction, and by Cranston Walker; The Times 20 June 1956 p 12 B, will; personal knowledge].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England