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Biographical entry Turner, Philip (1873 - 1955)

MRCS 29 July 1897; FRCS 12 December 1901; BSc (Zoology) London 1894; MB 1899; MS 1901.

27 December 1873
16 February 1955
General surgeon


Born at Kensington on 27 December 1873 one of the three sons of Arthur James Turner, he was educated at King's and University Colleges, London, graduating in science in 1894, and qualified from Guy's Hospital in 1897. He won honours in forensic medicine at the MB examination in 1899 and took the MS and the Fellowship in 1901.

At Guy's he won the Treasurer's gold medal in clinical surgery, was medical registrar 1902-03, and demonstrator of anatomy, lecturer in surgery and instructor in operative surgery 1903-08. After holding a clinical assistantship at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, he was appointed assistant surgeon at Guy's under Sir Alfred Fripp in 1908 and became surgeon in 1925. He was elected a consulting surgeon on his retirement in 1933. Turner's dry and reserved personality was the antithesis of Fripp's sociable and enthusiastic character. But they made an excellent team and shared a distaste for heroic or showy surgery. Turner deliberately avoided the more difficult fields of surgery, but made himself a master of the ordinary work of a general surgeon. His opinion was highly valued by his specialist colleagues, and his worth was recognised by his election as President of the clinical and paediatric sections, as well as the surgical section, of the Royal Society of Medicine. He was essentially a craftsman and anatomist, and in his work on inguinal hernia and the descent of the testicle he showed himself capable of thorough and detailed research. He devised and described the best method of trans-scrotal fixation of the undescended testis, which became established practice as "Turner's operation". His textbook of operative surgery, written jointly with R P Rowlands, was very successful.

Turner was assistant surgeon at the Belgrave Hospital for Children 1904-08 and subsequently surgeon to the Eltham and Hornsey Hospitals and the Surrey dispensary. In the war of 1939-45 he returned from retirement to take charge of the Joyce Green Hospital at Dartford, Kent, one of the Emergency Medical Service hospitals in the sector managed by Guy's. Here his personality at last developed itself fully and he seemed able to deploy all his abilities as teacher, anatomist, surgeon, and administrator. He became the moving spirit of the hospital and continued at work till 1950. In these years he made a wider circle of friends than he had ever cared to cultivate before. His collection of books, including literary first editions, was sold at Hodgson's auction rooms on 13 December 1950.

Turner married in 1908 Helen B Lambert, formerly a sister at Guy's. Mrs Turner was matron of the Red Cross workrooms at the Royal Academy during the war of 1914-18; she died in 1932.

Turner examined in surgery for the Admiralty and the Society of Apothecaries. He was a frequent contributor to the professional journals. He died in St Mary Abbott's Hospital, Kensington, to which he had been consulting surgeon 1922-39, on 16 February 1955 aged 81. A memorial service was held at Guy's Hospital Chapel on 1 March.

The pocket osteology. London, Bailliere, 1908.
Aids to osteology, with N L Eckhoff. 1908.
Inguinal hernia, the imperfectly descended testicle and variocele. London, Churchill 1919.
The Operations of Surgery, by W H Jacobson, editions 6-8 by R P Rowlands and P Turner. London, Churchill 1915-36.
An eventful locum. Guy's Hosp Gaz. 1954, 88, 516.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 18 February 1955 p 8 d-e, and 2 March page 10 b memorial service; Brit med J 1955, 1, 545 with appreciation by Sir W H Ogilvie; Lancet 1955, 1, 464 with portrait, and appreciations by N L Eckhoff and Sir W H Oglivie, and p 610 by AES; Guy's Hosp Gaz 1955, 69, 88 by T B Layton with portrait, and p 137 by M Mitman].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England