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Biographical entry Spurrell, Walter Roworth (7 June 1966)

MRCS 1924; FRCS 1926; BSc London 1922; MB BS 1925; MS 1926; MSc 1932; LRCP 1924.

7 June 1966
7 June 1966


Spurrell was born in Carmarthen on 24 June 1897, educated at Llandovery College and entered Guy's Hospital Medical School in 1914 at the age of 17. As soon as he was old enough he enlisted in 1915 in the Royal Field Artillery, was commissioned and went on active service till the first world war ended in 1918. Re-entering Guy's he won many prizes and took a science degree with first class honours in physiology in 1922 before proceeding to the Conjoint Diploma in 1924, the London MB BS, in which he took honours in surgery and won the gold medal, in 1925, and both the Fellowship and the MS in 1926. He was naturally modest and friendly, so that his brilliance aroused no jealousy, and he appeared set for a successful surgical career. He was a house surgeon and demonstrator of physiology, and became surgical registrar at Guy's in 1927, but within a year suffered a long and severe illness, which forced him to seek less strenuous work.

He was appointed lecturer on physiology at Leeds under Professor McSwiney in 1929, but when Professor M S Pembrey retired from Guy's in 1933 Spurrell was invited back as reader in physiology. In one course he became Professor, and was ultimately Emeritus Professor and a governor of the Medical School and of the Hospital. For twenty-nine years he worked there with great success, for he was a lucid teacher and a wise counsellor, always ready to help and encourage colleagues and students; he was fully equipped as scientist and clinician, and was interested in a wide range of research. While adopting the advantages which new technology offered in recording machines and laboratory instruments, he always emphasised the value of simple observation, and manipulation. During the second world war he directed the pre-clinical departments of Guy's Medical School at Sherwood Park, Tunbridge Wells and was commanding officer of the local Home Guard.

He served on the Whitley Council and on the Army Personnel Recruitment Committee, and was an active member of the Physiological Society for many years.

Spurrell married in 1927 Dorothy Gwynne Griffith. He retired in 1962 and settled in Dorset, where he died on 7 June 1966, a fortnight before his sixty-ninth birthday, survived by his wife with their son and two daughters. A memorial service was held in Guy's Hospital chapel on 17 July.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 10 June 1966, and his will 5 September 1966; Lancet 1966, 1, 1380 by GADH with portrait; Brit med J 1966, 1, 1545 by GFG with portrait; Guy's Hosp Gaz 1966, 80, 349 a tribute to his character and influence].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England