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Biographical entry Ogilvie, Sir William Heneage (1887 - 1971)

KBE 1946; MRCS 1913; FRCS 1920; BA Oxford 1910; MB BChir 1913; MChir 1920; Hon FACS 1938; Hon FRCS Canada 1943; Hon FRACS 1947.

14 July 1887
Valparaiso, Chile
15 April 1971
General surgeon


William Heneage Ogilvie was born at Valparaiso on 14 July 1887. His father William Ogilvie was an engineer from Dundee and went to Chile for business reasons.

Educated at Clifton College and New College, Oxford, where he gained first class honours in physiology in 1910, Heneage Ogilvie proceeded to Guy's, where he qualified MRCS LRCP in 1913. He became BM BCh Oxon in the same year, later gaining the MCh in 1920 and MD in 1924. He served as surgeon for urgency cases in a hospital in France from 1915 to 1917 and in the RAMC from 1917 to 1920.

In 1925 Ogilvie was appointed assistant surgeon to Guy's Hospital, having served with distinction as a surgical registrar and senior demonstrator of anatomy. He was assistant surgeon to E C Hughes and during the twenty-three years on the surgical staff of Guy's Hospital attracted a galaxy of visitors from surgical centres all over the world. Renowned for his teaching in the Fellowship class at first, and subsequently for a provocative and stimulating approach, particularly to the problems of gastric surgery, he rapidly built up a successful practice. He also served with distinction in many offices in the Royal College of Surgeons.

He was elected Hunterian Professor in 1924 and later became a member of the Court of Examiners. Elected to the Council in 1931, he was Vice-President from 1945 to 1947, delivering the Bradshaw Lecture on "Surgical handicraft" in 1947. He was a member of many other professional bodies and was elected Hon FACS in 1938, Hon FRCS Canada in 1943 and Hon FRACS in 1947.

He also attained high rank as a Mason and became Upper Warden of the Feltmakers' Company in 1957 and Master in 1958. Outstanding among his achievements, however, and perhaps dearest to his heart, was his career in the Army. After serving in the Balkan Wars in 1912 and in the first world war in France in the RAMC, he was appointed consulting surgeon to the Mediterranean Forces in the second world war, with the rank of Major-General. He was awarded the KBE in recognition of these services in 1946.

Ogilvie's outstanding ability as a writer was exemplified by his essays, including Surgery, orthodox and heterodox (1948), No miracles among friends (1959) and The tired business man (1964), which reveal an individual style and clarity of expression perhaps without peer among medical writers of his time. In addition to this he wrote nearly 200 articles in medical journals and was joint editor of The Practitioner from 1946 to 1962 and editor of the first two editions of Recent advances in surgery.

Travel and yachting occupied much of his time outside surgery and he founded the Surgical Travellers Club with the object of visiting surgical centres in the British Isles and Europe with a small and select group of colleagues, some of them acquaintances of the war years. He felt that this was a help to him in keeping up to date and in bridging the gap between the more senior and junior members of the profession. In the yachting world he became Commodore of the Oxford University Sailing Club and the United Hospitals Sailing Club, both of which delighted him.

Fearless and often even tactless in criticism, he antagonised some of his colleagues, but the great majority recognised this as a foible of greatness and warmed to the genuine interest, enthusiasm and critical judgement that he displayed. An admirer of Moynihan and Victor Bonney in his early years, Ogilvie remained a stalwart supporter of the best in British surgery. He described himself as a "humble follower of Lane" and achieved honours in many fields, all well-deserved. His support of registrars and assistants was generously given when he thought it was deserved and an army of them remembered him with gratitude, as they made their way forward in the profession.

In 1915 he married Vere Magdalen Quitter, and when he died on 15 April 1971 from cerebral arteriosclerosis, his wife survived him, as did his son (in the medical profession) and twin daughters.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 17 April 1971;Brit med J 1971, 2, 282, 344;Lancet 1971, 1, 921].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England